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State of the AFC North: Week 10

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Pittsburgh and Cleveland shine, while the Bengals suffer a blowout loss at home.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There were two blowout losses within the division in Week 10. The Steelers throttled the Panthers on Thursday night, improving to 6-2-1 and further distancing themselves from the rest of the AFC North.

After being dominated by the Saints at home, the Bengals have now lost three out of their past four games. Cincinnati’s loss helps the Ravens, who had their bye week and are only one game back of the Bengals in the standings.

The Week 11 matchup between Baltimore and Cincinnati carries serious playoff implications. Cleveland won their third game of the year, beating the Falcons at home in an upset victory. It was arguably their most complete win this season.

Steelers defeat Panthers: 52-21

Pittsburgh dominates in primetime

After Cam Newton led a 75-yard touchdown drive on Carolina’s opening possession, it appeared the Steelers would have their work cut out for them. However, that notion quickly ceased and the rest of the night belonged to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers proceeded to score two touchdowns in 30 seconds to take a 14-7 lead, and added three. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a 75-yard touchdown reception, and Pittsburgh’s defense picked off Cam Newton and returned the interception for a touchdown.

Pittsburgh would go on to score six touchdowns on the night. Ben Roethlisberger had more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (3), and threw for 328 yards with a quarterback rating of 158.3. He was eventually pulled from the game in the fourth quarter.

Carolina was riding a three-game win streak entering this contest and had gone 2-0 against the AFC North this season with victories against the Bengals and Ravens.

Saved by the Bell?

It appears the ongoing Le’Veon Bell may finally be reaching a conclusion. Bell, whose required to report to the team by November 13th in order to play this season, has returned from his Miami vacation is reportedly back in Pittsburgh.

Despite earlier reports that Team owner Art Rooney “excepted” Bell to return, reports surfaced over the weekend that Bell is unlikely to rejoin the team nor suit up for Pittsburgh this season.

Bell’s time with the Steelers is all but over, and it's an unfortunate ending his successful tenure with the team. However, Pittsburgh has been doing just fine without him, winning five straight games.

Bell returning actually could have an adverse effect, disrupting the Steelers momentum and potentially causing locker room drama. They can now fully put this situation behind them and focus on winning the division and earning home field advantage in the playoffs.

Browns defeat Falcons: 28-16

Rookies have a field day

It Sunday is any indication of what’s to come in Cleveland, the future certainly appears bright. Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb each had their best games of the year and led the Browns to a complete, impressive victory.

Mayfield looked much like Drew Brees against the Falcons, albeit to a lesser extent. Mayfield’s heralded accuracy was on full display, as he completed 17/20 passes. His incompletions (3) matched the number of touchdowns he threw (3).

Mayfield also averaged 10.8 yards per attempt and finished with a rating of 151.3. It was running back Nick Chubb who stole the show, however. Chubb totaled 209 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns, one receiving and one rushing.

His career-performance was highlighted by a 92-yard rushing touchdown. It was both the longest play from scrimmage in the NFL this season and in Browns franchise history. If this young duo can continue putting up these numbers, the sky is the limit in Cleveland.

Spoiler alert?

The Browns don't have a realistic path to the postseason, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to play for over the remainder of the season. Cleveland isn’t going to tank for a higher draft pick, they want to win football games.

Cleveland is no stranger to playing spoiler in November and December, and following their Week 11 bye, the Browns face several teams vying for the playoffs; Cincinnati (x2), Baltimore, Houston, and Carolina.

With Mayfield, Chubb and a talented defense, the Browns are not an easy out for anyone. The Browns will continue to play hard and look to carry momentum into next season. With three divisional matchups remaining, you can assure they’ll be motivated.

Saints defeat Bengals: 51-14

No D in Cincinnati

The Bengals defense has struggled in recent weeks. Although they’ve had to face some of the league’s best offenses, like the Steelers, Chiefs, and Saints, Cincinnati's defense quite frankly wasn’t very good earlier in the season, either.

Over the past four games, the Bengals are allowing an average of 39.5 points per game and boast a 1-3 record. On the season, they rank second-to-last in points allowed and 32nd in yards allowed, giving up 454.6 per game.

They rank near the bottom in almost every other major statistical category, as well, and just became the first team in the super bowl era to allow 500+ yards in three consecutive games.

Injuries to key players like Vontaze Burfict and Carl Lawson have evidently not helped. However, something needed to change, and the Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday morning. Marvin Lewis is expected to take over play-calling duties.

Get well soon, A.J.

Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd have stepped into big roles this season, but Sunday’s performance proved the Bengals offense still runs through their All-Pro wide receiver.

Without A.J. Green in the lineup, the Bengals passing offense suffered. Andy Dalton struggled, completing just 12/20 passes for 153 yards. He also tossed two interceptions and finished with QBR of 26.9.

Boyd has thrived opposite Green in the offense this season, but wasn’t quite as effective without him. He caught just three passes for 65 yards. Green is not expected to return until December, Cincinnati will be without his services against the Ravens and Browns, at the very least.