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State of the AFC North: Week 11

The Ravens get revenge on Cincinnati, while the Steelers come from behind to keep their win streak alive.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As the Browns rested up on their bye week, a lot happened across the rest of the AFC North. In Lamar Jackson’s debut, the Ravens outlasted the Bengals at home to move into a tie for 2nd place in the division. Both teams are now 5-5 on the season.

After looking dead in the water for much of Sunday’s contest against Jacksonville, the Steelers surged late to earn a comeback victory. Pittsburgh has now won six games in a row and continue to sit alone atop the division at 7-2-1.

Ravens defeat Bengals: 24-21

Lamar’s much-anticipated debut

We got a glimpse of the future in Baltimore on Sunday and quite possibly the present as well. In place of the injured Joe Flacco, first-round pick Lamar Jackson drew his first career start at quarterback.

Jackson completed 13/19 passes for 150 yards and an interception, good for a rating of 70.1. Other than the errant interception throw, Jackson made several nice passes and put the Ravens in positions to score.

His dual-threat ability was on full display. Jackson broke the Ravens franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback, turning a whopping 27 carries into 117 yards. He became the Ravens first 100-yard rusher on the season.

Overall, it was an encouraging debut from the former Heisman trophy winner. Jackson executed the gameplan well and totaled nearly 300 yards, helping the Ravens secure a much-needed victory.

Gus Edwards emerges in the backfield

Jackson wasn’t the only rookie who made a big offensive impact on Sunday. Undrafted free agent Gus Edwards helped spearhead a revamped Baltimore rushing attack and appears to have overtaken Alex Collins in the backfield.

Edwards rushed 17 times for 115 yards and a touchdown, including an average yards per carry average of 6.8. He significantly outplayed Collins (7 carries, 18 yards), and seems to have a developed a nice rapport with Lamar Jackson.

Edwards eclipsed 100 yards rushing shortly after Jackson, and became the first Ravens running back to do so this year. It remains to be seen if this was merely a fluke performance or a sign of things to come, but if Edwards can replicate this type of play going forward, he could seize the lead back role.

Bengals fall to Ravens: 21-24

Mid-season spiral continues

Having lost three out of their past four games entering Sunday’s matchup, the Bengals desperately needed a victory against the Ravens. They gave themselves a chance, but ultimately did not make enough plays down the stretch.

The Bengals defense played better than it has in recent weeks, but they still allowed over 400 yards of offense and had no answers for Baltimore’s ground attack. Baltimore rushed for 265 total yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

Cincinnati appeared to be the frontrunner in the division not too long ago. Now, they’re clinging to slim playoff hopes. In order to save their season, they’ll need to turn things around quickly, before it's too late.

No Green, lots of problems

Without A.J. Green in the lineup, the Bengals simply are a different team. As we saw last week and on Sunday, Cincinnati is a much easier team to defend without their star receiver in the lineup.

The Ravens keyed in stopping the run game, limiting Joe Mixon to just 14 yards on 12 carries. Baltimore forced Andy Dalton to beat them in the passing game, which ultimately proved to be a successful strategy.

Dalton did toss two touchdowns, but completed just 19/36 passes for 211 yards. Outside of Tyler Boyd (4 receptions, 71 yards), no Bengals pass-catcher made a significant impact. John Ross snagged a nice touchdown reception, but had just two catches on the day.

Green was doubtful heading into Sunday’s game, but traveled with the team and was not ruled out until before kickoff. This suggests he should have a decent chance of suiting up next week against the Browns, and boy do the Bengals need him back.

Steelers defeat Jaguars: 20-16

Comeback thriller

After looking dead in the water for three quarters, the Steelers used a late surge to avoid an upset defeat on the road. Pittsburgh was held scoreless in the first half and didn’t find the endzone until late in the third quarter.

They scored two more touchdowns on their final two possessions of the game to take a 20-16 lead. With five seconds remaining, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled and dove to extend the ball across the goal line.

Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster combined for 13 receptions, 221 yards a touchdown to lead the Pittsburgh offense. The Steelers defense also came up big, holding the Jaguars scoreless in the fourth quarter.

Homefield advantage

With the Patriots on a bye week and the Chargers losing, the Steelers playoff aspirations received some help from around the league. Depending on how the rest of season plays out, the Steelers could secure home field advantage in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh (7-2-1) have a decent shot at beating out New England (7-3) for the second seed in the AFC. The Patriots will travel to face the Steelers in Week 15, and the outcome of their matchup could ultimately determine the AFC playoff standings.

The Steelers remaining schedule is by no means a cakewalk. In addition to playing the Patriots, Pittsburgh still has to face the Chargers, Saints, and Bengals. They’ll look to extend their winning streak to seven games against the Broncos in Week 12.