AFC North Report: Ravens grab No. 1 seed in AFC as Steelers continue their post-season hunt
Steel City Underground’s AFC North Report wraps up the latest game updates and looks at the next opponents for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL for Week 15.
On Sunday, all four teams in the AFC North were active. With Cleveland and Cincinnati going head to head, Baltimore took on the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh was the guest of the Arizona Cardinals. Exiting with wins were the Ravens, Steelers, and the Browns even though the Bengals kept things close in that matchup. The Ravens were the first AFC team to punch a ticket into the 2019-20 NFL playoffs with their win and the Steelers’ win moved them to 8-5 and kept their playoff hopes alive.
Ravens are “in” with win over Bills, but not AFC North champs just yet
No team in the NFL had secured a postseason spot prior to Week 14 outside of the New Orleans Saints but the Baltimore Ravens’ 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills made them the first AFC team to clinch a spot. The Ravens are, as of now, the No. 1 seed in the conference. Lamar Jackson didn’t lead the Ravens offense with his legs this week, opting to spread the ball around by tossing three touchdown passes. It could be said that in Week 14, it was the Ravens defense that won the game. In a physical defensive battle, Baltimore was able to sack Bills quarterback Josh Allen four times and force a fumble. While Buffalo registered three tackles for a loss and an interception off of Jackson, their offense was only able to put together 205 yards (3.1 yards per play average).
The Ravens will host the New York Jets on Thursday before closing out the final two weeks of the season against the Browns and Steelers.
Ravens didn’t clinch AFC North today because Steelers won in Arizona.
Baltimore can wrap up division on Thursday night by beating Jets (5-8).
That would give Ravens a 3.5-game lead with two games remaining. pic.twitter.com/Y7moPO94nd
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 9, 2019
Steelers beat Cardinals to remain in the hunt
With their 23-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Steelers remain in the hunt for a playoff berth. They’d love to see all of the improvements and maturing they’ve done over the course of the last three weeks continue to propel them forward. The Steelers play the now 9-4 Bills next Sunday at Heinz Field and would love to throw a wrench in Buffalo’s plans to be a player during the NFL postseason.
Pittsburgh played one of its most complete games on both sides of the ball on Sunday in Arizona. That bodes well as they look at their next opponent and the final two weeks against the New York Jets and the Ravens.
Browns barely survive the “battle of Ohio” with Bengals
Cincinnati entered the contest with a single win but they weren’t going to just lay down and let Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns run away with the “battle of Ohio” game in Week 14. In an ugly game, it was the Bengals who were moving the ball effectively on offense with Andy Dalton under center, at least initially. When Mayfield took the field he completed four-of-four passes before throwing a pass to tight end David Njoku who made the catch, fell to the ground, then had the ball ripped loose by linebacker Nick Vigil. Initially, the play was ruled a catch-fumble and later called an interception. That was the beginning of a back-and-forth affair between the two teams.
Thanks to turnovers, the game remained interesting until Cleveland established the run game in the second half. While the Bengals struggled to convert third-downs, the Browns did the opposite, finding ways to move the chains.
The Browns improved to 6-7 while the Bengals sit at 1-12. Cleveland will play the Cardinals in Week 15 before finishing their last two games of the season against the Ravens and Bengals. Cincinnati will play the New England Patriots in Week 15 before finishing their season off against the Dolphins and Browns.