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AFC North Preview: Week 14

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens (10-2)

The Ravens overtook the top seed in the AFC last week after their eighth win in a row. Baltimore will face another quality opponent this Sunday when they travel to Buffalo to face the 9-3 Bills.

Buffalo is coming off of their most impressive win of the season after defeating the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. QB Josh Allen has made his case as the second-best quarterback from the 2018 class, only behind Lamar Jackson at this point. While not on the level of Jackson as a runner, Allen does lead the league in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with eight while also rushing for 430 yards on the ground. Like Jackson, Allen has also drastically improved his completion percentage from his rookie season, making him a true dual-threat quarterback.

Meanwhile, a week after playing the league’s No. 1 ranked defense, Baltimore’s offense will now face the third-ranked defense. The Ravens have won both of their matchups against teams with a top-five defenses so far, proving that even the best defenses are often left bewildered by Jackson’s abilities.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-11)

The Bengals enjoyed their long awaited first win of the season, and the first for Zac Taylor as a head coach, last week against the New York Jets. Veteran QN Andy Dalton led the charge in his first start since being benched for rookie Ryan Finley earlier in the season.

Cincinnati has a golden opportunity to play spoiler to their division rival this Sunday when they face the Cleveland Browns, who are desperately clinging to hopes of a playoff appearance. With the competition for the two wild card spots heating up with four weeks remaining, a loss for Cleveland could be the final nail in the coffin to a disappointing season.

The Bengals still have the lead on the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, so a win could be problematic for their chance to get QB Joe Burrow out of LSU.

Cleveland Browns (5-7)

The Browns enter “must-win” territory after their loss to Cincinnati last week which mathematically eliminated them from winning the AFC North. After an offseason full of hype and expectations, Cleveland, now at 5-7, may not even make the playoffs.

The Browns are currently two games behind the the Pittsburgh Steelers, who occupy the sixth seed in the AFC. Cleveland will most likely have to win all of their remaining games to have a shot at making the playoffs now. Not overlooking the Bengals on Sunday is just the first step towards that goal.

To make matters worse, rumors were started this week of star WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s growing displeasure with his current situation, putting the future of Beckham in Cleveland up in the air.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)

The Steelers remain alive in the playoff race after taking down the Browns last week. Rookie QB Devlin “Duck” Hodges will remain the starter after taking over for second-year QB Mason Rudolph against Cincinnati two weeks ago.

Pittsburgh will face the 3-8 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in a must-win game. With the Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders, and Indianapolis Colts hot on their heels, the Steelers have little to no margin for error in order to maintain possession of the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture.

Pittsburgh has been prone to letdown games against lesser competition under head coach Mike Tomlin in recent years, but at this point, there is no room for overlooking any opponent at 7-5. The Steelers remain without their top offensive playmakers in WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and RB James Conner, who have both been declared out for Sunday’s game.