AFC North Report: Browns bottom out in loss to Chiefs; division recap

The Cincinnati Bengals needed the bye week in Week 9 of the 2018 NFL regular season to regroup, but that meant that they had to watch their AFC North rivals take the field and possibly change the standings. With a win on the road over the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers held onto their top spot in the division while the Cleveland Browns took another loss in an already messy season on the road thanks to the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Browns torched by Mahomes, Chiefs

Apparently, the coaching changes made by the Cleveland Browns organization (the firing of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley) didn’t make the team instantly more impressive. They did face the Chiefs who’ve been an offensive juggernaut this season, so a win was a bit of a long-shot.

Greg Williams’ debut as interim head coach was a 37-21 blowout on the road as Patrick Mahomes had another MVP-like game with Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt being equally as impressive. Mahomes completed 22-of-32 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns but did turn one pass over to the Browns defense. His top target was Kelce, who caught seven passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Hunt racked up 141 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns.

As the interim offensive coordinator, Freddie Kitchens tried to get Cleveland’s offense firing early behind Baker Mayfield, but it wasn’t to be. Duke Johnson had a nice game, catching nine of nine targets for 78 yards and two touchdowns to give the Browns a spark. Before the Chiefs ran away with things, Mayfield played a more efficient game and completed 29 of 42 passes for 297 yards (and the two touchdown passes to Johnson). It was a late forced-pass by Mayfield, with the Browns down 16 points late in the final quarter, that sealed the Browns’ fate. Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson jumped the route on an easy read for the turnover.

Myles Garrett continues to show a ton of talent on a defense that remains disruptive but at this point, it looks like Cleveland needs to just focus on the guys who can perform in their system and get ready to clean house once again at the end of the season. The defense missed too many tackles and was not successful in keeping Mahomes uncomfortable. That made injuries on defense hurt even more. E.J. Gaines and Denzel Ward both left the game in the first half. Christian Kirksey was shaken up as well. With arguably their best players missing from their defensive backfield, the Browns defense was outmatched almost the minute they walked on the field.

Cleveland will go back to work and focus on hosting the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10 as they fall even farther in the AFC North and league as a whole.

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Division standings shaking out after Steelers beat Ravens

After the Steelers (on the road) beat the Ravens, the state of the division is looking more interesting. The Bengals will come off of the bye to host, in Week 10, a New Orleans Saints team that entered a shoot-out on Sunday and beat the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams (45-35). The Steelers will host the Carolina Panthers, who beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (42-28), on Thursday Night Football – hoping the short week doesn’t haunt them. The Ravens will take their bye and try to get things figured out. The Browns will host an Atlanta Falcons team that beat the Washington Redskins (38-14).

There is separation now in the division with Pittsburgh having beaten Cincinnati earlier in the season. The Steelers are on a four-game winning streak. With Cincinnati hoping to remain competitive, the Ravens trying to rebound and the Browns looking for relevancy, that makes all of the Week 10 games ones to keep an eye on if you’re an AFC North fan.

Division Standings Through Week 9

Team W L T PF PA Streak
PIT 5 2 1 227 188 W4
CIN 5 3 0 221 237 W1
BAL 4 5 0 213 160 L3
CLE 2 6 1 190 247 L4

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