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State of the AFC North: Week 6

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Another week full of AFC North drama. The Steelers and Bengals faced off for the first time this season, with Pittsburgh coming out on top after a competitive contest. Cincinnati dropped to 4-2 on the season, but retained possession of first place via tiebreaker.

After the Browns defeated the Ravens in Week 5, both squads looked like completely different teams on Sunday. Cleveland was thoroughly dominated by the Chargers at home, and the Ravens pitched a shutout against the Titans.

With the win, Baltimore improved to 4-2 and move into a first-place tie with the Bengals. The Steelers have won two games in a row and now stand at 3-2-1, while the Browns fell to 2-3-1.

Chargers defeat Browns: 38-14

Poor defensive showing

After limiting the Ravens offense to just nine points in Week 5, the Browns defense failed to produce a similar outing on Sunday. Against a talented Chargers offense, Cleveland’s defense was carved up all afternoon.

It only took 20 pass attempts from Phillip Rivers for the Chargers to put 38 points on the board. The Browns had no answers for Melvin Gordon, who rushed 18 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns.

As a team, Los Angeles rushed for 246 yards and averaged a whopping 6.8 yards per attempt. For the third time this year, the Browns allowed an opposing back to eclipse 100 yards on the ground.

Rough outing for Baker Mayfield

Since taking over as the starter, Mayfield has had some impressive performances, most notably in wins against the Jets and Ravens. Sunday’s showing against the Chargers will not go down as one of them.

The Browns offensive line and running game did him no favors, but Mayfield put forth his worst performance thus far. Baker completed threw for 238 yards and a touchdown, but completed just 22/46 passes and tossed two interceptions.

It’s the second time this season Mayfield has thrown multiple interceptions. The Browns will need him to be more effective going forward, and Mayfield with look to bounce back against a poor Buccaneers secondary in Week 7.

Steelers defeat Bengals: 28-21

Flipping the switch

After falling to the Ravens on Sunday night in Week 4, the Steelers season appeared to be on life support. Their defense couldn’t stop anyone and Ben Roethlisberger looked to be on the decline.

Now, they have serious momentum heading into the bye week. After stringing together consecutive wins over the Falcons and Bengals, Pittsburgh is back into the mix atop the division with Cincinnati and Baltimore.

At 3-2-1, the Steelers are now expected to get Le’Veon Bell back into the fold following their bye week. With divisional matchups against the Browns and Ravens awaiting, the Steelers are in much better shape than they were a few weeks ago.

James Conner making his case

When Bell returns, he figures to immediately step into his role as the bell cow back in Pittsburgh. However, current starter James Conner is thriving in his absence and is making a legit case to continue seeing snaps.

Conner has had a couple of poor performances this year, but over the past two weeks, he’s been nothing short of fantastic. He’s been a key cog in the Steelers success, rushing for 221 yards and four touchdowns in back-to-back victories.

He’s also made an impact as a receiver, catching eight passes for 93 yards. Conner has 22 receptions on the season. It will be interesting to see how the backfield shapes up following the bye week.

Bengals fall to Steelers: 21-28

Struggles against Pittsburgh continue

While it seems many of their matchups are competitive and decided in the fourth quarter, the Steelers have been a torn in the Bengals side for several years. Sunday marked the seventh consecutive time the Bengals have lost to Pittsburgh.

Since 2013, Cincinnati has defeated the Steelers just twice out of their thirteen total meetings. The Bengals had several opportunities to come out of Sunday’s matchup with a victory but they simply failed to execute.

Their next chance to top the Steelers comes at the end of the season, when they travel to Pittsburgh in Week 17. Depending on how the next several weeks go, their could be serious playoff implications on the line.

Defense gets gashed late

The Bengals defense had little to no answers for Pittsburgh’s offensive attack on Sunday, as the Steelers racked up plenty of yards both through the air and on the ground.

James Conner rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown made some big catches late in the game, each finishing with over 100 yards receiving and 12 combined catches.

It was AB who made the play of the game, however. Pittsburgh, down one point with 15 seconds left, was facing roughly a 50-yard field goal try to win the game. Instead, Brown took a quick slant 31 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

Ravens defeat Titans: 21-0

Defensive domination

Playing on the road in rainy weather conditions, the Ravens defense was nothing short of dominant. In fact, it was arguably one of the most impressive performances we’ve seen from any Baltimore defensive unit in quite some time.

The Ravens set a new franchise-record for sacks, getting to Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota a whopping 11 times on the day. It was a team effort across the board, as eight different players recorded sacks.

Za’Darius Smith led the way with three sacks, continuing his strong season. The Titans managed just 172 yards of total offense and failed to score any points. It was a significant step backwards for their playoff hopes.

Michael Crabtree comes through

After dropping eight passes through five weeks, including a potential game-winning touchdown against the Browns in Week 5, Crabtree had come under serious fire for his performance heading into Sunday’s matchup.

Against the Titans, he quieted the noise with his best performance of the season. Crabtree caught three passes on the opening drive, including his first touchdown reception since Week 1.

In addition to the score, Crabtree caught six passes for 93 yards, his highest yardage total of the season. It was encouraging to see Crabtree bounce back, and hopefully he can build upon this performance.