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AFC North Week 16 review: The only division with 4 winning records

Coming down the stretch, the AFC North is all fighting for playoff spots

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

(A quick editor’s note: Due to a busy travel schedule around the holidays and an illness, this post is coming late. My apologies to the readers and to Curtiss who had this ready to go earlier this week.)

Happy holidays to those who celebrate. If you are the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, the holidays went perfectly for you.

Can’t say the same for the Cincinnati Bengals (we will get them later, I have something to get off my chest about them). The Browns won a crucial game to get further ahead in the wild card race, the Ravens showed their dominance once again, the Steelers continue to be one of the most confusing teams in the NFL. The Bengals hype train essentially came to a halt.

Enjoy Joe Flacco getting pumped up as he defies the odds.

Cincinnati Bengals 11, Pittsburgh Steelers 34 F/Saturday

I am going to be honest here, I didn’t expect quarterback Mason Rudolph to drop 30+ on the Bengals on a Saturday night. It was a surprise to everyone. Wide receiver George Pickens had a day, considering the amount of criticism he faced (I felt some of it was unnecessary, some warranted) he took all of his anger out on a porous Bengals secondary.

He also had a message for people who are constantly on him.

As far as the Steelers go, their playoff hopes aren’t necessarily dashed (they are on life support but we all know this team has no shot) but Rudolph is probably the best QB in that Pittsburgh QB room (which isn’t saying much). As far as the Mike Tomlin discourse goes, he will probably stay but giving him an extension seems risky.

As far as the losing team goes, let’s discuss Cincinnati.

Let’s start with the team. Going into the season many believed that this team was capable of winning it all in Las Vegas (I thought they weren’t as good as they were last year and people were overrating them a tad bit). Regardless of the multiple injuries, I would say this team has underachieved. Offensively, they are inconsistent and their offensive line hasn’t been great all season. Defensively, they can’t stop the run or defend against explosive plays. I also learned three other things about this team.

  • This isn’t a playoff team by any means
  • Beating up on teams outside of your division but going 0-5 in your own speaks volumes of how your team plays.
  • Their roster isn’t as good as people say they are.

Quarterback Jake Browning was bound for a letdown performance but outside of wide receiver Tee Higgins, no one else showed up. Speaking of Higgins, he will likely get paid by someone if the Bengals don’t franchise-tag him. He’s a top option in this league and with Ja’Marr Chase being out he’s getting a chance to shine.

As far as the coach goes, Zac Taylor isn’t as good as people think and it’s not a hot take to say he’s the 4th best coach in the AFC North. Playoff hopes are essentially done at this point and this team has some decisions to make this offseason.

Baltimore Ravens 33, San Francisco 49ers 19 F/Monday

Anytime the Ravens play someone that’s not in the AFC, it usually results in a beatdown. The 49ers were unfortunately in the way of this one. Baltimore must have read my tweets about quarterback Brock Purdy because he played one of his worst games against another AFC North opponent.

Baltimore’s defense pretty much had their way with the 49ers offense. Purdy never looked comfortable and at times he looked rattled (similar to how he looked against the Cleveland Browns), he threw 4 interceptions despite throwing over 250 yards.

Aside from Cleveland, Baltimore has one of the top two defenses in the league and it’s not close.

Offensively, what needs to be said? Quarterback Lamar Jackson showed to everyone that he is the favorite to win the regular season MVP this season and maybe more. His stats don’t look impressive to some but he’s been the most consistent quarterback this season. When Baltimore’s offense is clicking, it’s tough to contain them. The AFC will run through the Ravens this season and it will not be easy going up there in late January.

What do you think about the AFC North having four teams with winning records but only two with real hopes to make noise in the playoffs?