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AFC North Week in Review: Week 12 sees separation

Ravens now lead the entire AFC

Baltimore Ravens v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Week 12 has come and gone. The AFC North is starting to round out in terms of where teams stand halfway through the season. The Cleveland Browns had their winning streak snapped, the Cincinnati Bengals continued to struggle post Joe Burrow, the Baltimore Ravens continued their winning ways and the Pittsburgh Steelers found a way to not get outgained on offense.

Anyway, Week 12 is over and after getting knocked out of the Denver Broncos game, quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson gave this encouraging report.

Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Cincinnati Bengals 10

This was the only game that was on local airwaves so I forced myself to watch this and I also had NFL Redzone on my tablet simultaneously.

As far as the Steelers go, this was the first game without offensive coordinator Matt Canada calling the plays and the offense (in my unbiased opinion) was okay. I didn’t say it was great, but it was better without Canada which is something everyone should know by now.

Despite putting up 400 yards, the team managed to score only 16 points. I will refrain from a sarcastic comment. They were able to move the ball but struggled to finish drives with scores due to missed opportunities.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett targeted the middle of the field (something that he should do more often) and it worked, and he outplayed Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (not saying much but it’s progress).

Considering how their schedule is, the chances of the Steelers making the playoffs is possible but I will stay ten toes down (translation: being committed to something whether it is an agenda or a belief) that this team isn’t as good as their record indicates.

As for Cincinnati, so many questions need to be answered about this team.

We already know they are not going to be in the playoffs this year but the offensive game plan was frustrating to understand. Considering that you don’t have Burrow and you are starting someone who has been on the practice squad for essentially most of his career, you would at least make things easier on him.

It didn’t happen.

Browning was fine but the offense didn’t do him any favors. The reason why I believe Kevin Stefanski has the edge over Zac Taylor is because he tends to get the most out of his offense and the lack of an adequate supporting cast. Can’t say the same for Taylor. I am not advocating for Taylor to be relieved but his seat should be reasonably warm next season.

Defensively, the Bengals remind me of the Browns defense from last year with defensive coordinator Joe Woods (that’s not a compliment).

When you let one of the worst offensive units in the league move the ball up and down the field on you, that is a bad sign. It didn’t help that the Bengals were missing key players on defense but it was a bad showing from this group and this group has been a disappointment this year. Enjoy this rant, must listen.

Baltimore Ravens 20, Los Angeles Chargers 10

Before I get into the Ravens, let’s just get this out of the way. The Los Angeles Chargers need to do something about head coach Brandon Staley, he should’ve been let go after that wild card meltdown last season.

Anyway, Baltimore had a football game and they were able to come out with a win.

Offensively, the unit was fine but there were some concerns coming out of the performance. The offensive line was solid in run blocking but they were inconsistent in terms of pass protection. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was under duress and it led to either QB hits, sacks or pressures that forced overthrows due to a collapsing pocket.

Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers (the LA Chargers could’ve had him but they chose Quentin Johnston who is trending in the wrong direction) has been a revelation for the Ravens. He’s the receiver that can break a game open with his speed and his acceleration after the catch. The celebration he did after scoring his second touchdown was also cool.

Defensively, this unit is championship caliber but we already knew that.

Defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald will be getting calls for head coaching vacancies sooner rather than later considering how elite this defense has been. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has been revitalized in Baltimore, and he’s been producing (something we didn’t see his last season in Cleveland).

Baltimore is the best team in the AFC currently but they lack consistency. With their bye week approaching this team will get some bodies back for their late-season push to lock up the number one seed in the AFC.