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AFC North Preview: Week 12

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

The Ravens snapped a three-game losing streak with a victory over the Bengals last week in Lamar Jackson’s first start. Baltimore now faces the struggling 2-8 Oakland Raiders.

With quarterback Joe Flacco set to miss another game, Jackson will receive his second start. After facing the 32nd ranked total defense last week, Jackson will now face the 31st. Jackson rushed for 116 yards on 26 carries against Cincinnati while only passing for 150 yards. Expect offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to expand the playbook for Jackson against Oakland.

On defense, Baltimore will have to find a way to cover tight end Jared Cook. The Ravens biggest weakness defensively is their inability to cover tight ends, and Cook is one of the best in the league at his position. C.J. Mosley or Tony Jefferson will have to step up to take him away in the passing game. The Ravens pass rush will have to take advantage of the Raiders inexperience at offensive tackle by putting the heat on quarterback Derek Carr as well.

Baltimore will remain in possession of the sixth seed in the playoff race by improving to 6-5 with a win over Oakland.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)

After falling to a division rival last week, Cincinnati will face another division rival when the Browns come to town.

The Bengals remain in playoff contention despite losing four out of their last five games. Cleveland is fresh off of a bye week after their big win against the Atlanta Falcons, so Cincinnati must remain cautious. The Bengals 32nd ranked defense will be facing the Browns 17th ranked offense led by Baker Mayfield. Mayfield had an impressive three touchdown performance against the Falcons, and rookie running back Nick Chubb has emerged as Cleveland’s go-to guy at the position with 579 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the season.

Wide receiver A.J. Green will likely miss another game this Sunday, leaving Tyler Boyd as Andy Dalton’s top target once again. Boyd recorded 71 receiving yards and four catches against the Ravens last week. Establishing the run game is critical for Cincinnati’s offense to find rhythm. Running back Joe Mixon was held to a mere 14 yards on 12 carries against Baltimore. Finding success on the ground will help to slow the Browns pass rush, led by Myles Garrett.

Improving to 6-5 keeps the Bengals in the hunt for the sixth seed into the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (3-6-1)

After a big win and a bye week, Cleveland will travel to Cincinnati for an AFC North matchup.

The Browns are looking to continue their momentum following their upset win over Atlanta. Mayfield had a near flawless performance against the Falcons, throwing for 216 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. Mayfield can build off of that performance against the Bengals last place defense. Keeping Cincinnati's pass rush at bay will be key to exploiting their 31st ranked secondary.

With Green listed as doubtful to play today, Cleveland’s defense must shift their focus to Mixon and Boyd. Although Mixon is coming off of a down game, he has been a major weapon for the Bengals offense on the ground and in the passing game this season. The Browns defense must make Cincinnati one dimensional on offense by containing Mixon. Expect Cleveland to double cover Boyd as well.

The Browns have a chance to spoil the Bengals postseason hopes with a win this afternoon.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1)

The Steelers are on a six-game winning streak and will look to continue it against the 4-6 Denver Broncos.

Pittsburgh fought back against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, and the Steelers were able to find a way to win despite Ben Roethlisberger throwing three interceptions. Pittsburgh will face a less talented defense this week, so Roethlisberger will have the chance for a bounce back performance. Running back James Conner needs to rebound as well after a 25-yard rushing performance in Week 11.

The Steelers were gashed on the ground for 179 total rushing yards by Jacksonville. They will face another talented running back this week in Philip Lindsay. Lindsay, an undrafted rookie, has rushed for 670 yards and five touchdowns this season. Stopping the run game will give Pittsburgh’s pass rush the best chance of getting to quarterback Case Keenum and forcing him to make mistakes.

Improving to 8-2-1 would all but assure the division title for the Steelers.