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AFC North Roundup: Week 7

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

While the Ravens rested up and enjoyed their bye week, a thrilling Week 7 across the AFC North saw the Steelers, Bengals, and Browns all engaged in down-to-the-wire finishes.

Cleveland and Cincinnati did battle for the second time this season, with the Browns once again emerging victorious thanks to a game-winning touchdown with just seconds remaining. Elsewhere, the Steelers kept their undefeated record intact against the Titans.

Updated standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-0
  2. Baltimore Ravens 5-1
  3. Cleveland Browns 5-2
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 1-5-1

Steelers defeat Titans: 27-24

In the biggest matchup in all of the NFL during Week 7, the Steelers traveled to Tennessee in a showdown of two of the three remaining undefeated teams in the league. Something had to give, and it was the Steelers who emerged unscathed.

Similar to their win over the Browns last week, Pittsburgh got off to a hot start and jumped on the Titans early. Following an opening 16-play, 75-yard scoring drive, the Steelers found points on their next three consecutive possessions while forcing the Titans to punt twice, turning the ball over on downs, and only ceding seven points.

At halftime, the Steelers led 24-7 and it appeared they were set to once again cruise to a blowout victory. However, their offense lose its groove in the second half. Amdist turnovers and short drives, Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense suddenly began to cede a handful of big plays in both the running and passing game.

Leading by three points with just a few minutes remaining, the Steelers had a chance to expand their lead to six points or close the door with a touchdown. However, Ben Roethlisberger tossed an interception in the red zone with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, giving the ball back to Tennessee. Fortunately, Titans K Stephen Gostkowski missed a 46-yard attempt to send the game to overtime, gifting the Steelers their sixth victory of the season.

Roethlisberger’s three interceptions in the second half helped the Titans gain momentum and crawl back into the game. Ultimately, though, the Steelers advantage in the first two quarters proved enough for them to emerge victorious.

Defining stat: 13-of-18 on third down

What’s next: @ Baltimore Ravens — Sunday, Nov. 1 (1:00 p.m. ET)

Browns defeat Bengals: 37-34

It was far from a pretty or flawless victory, but the Browns did just enough to squeeze by the Bengals for the second time this season.

An early interception from Baker Mayfield combined with poor offensive execution saw the Browns once again trail early, and they faced a 17-10 deficit at halftime. Mayfield did not complete a pass until the second quarter, but Cleveland’s defense forced two turnovers and allowed the Browns to stay within striking distance.

The Browns then proceeded to blow the game open offensively in the second half, scoring touchdowns on all four of their possessions. Each touchdown was courtesy of Mayfield, too, who flipped quite a switch after a rough start. Mayfield began the game with five straight incompletions but was almost perfect from there on out.

He picked apart the Bengals secondary in the final two frames of play. Despite not having the services of WR Odell Beckham Jr., who exited early with a knee injury, Mayfield wound up completing 22-of-28 passes for 297 yards and a career-high five touchdown passes.

Three complimentary receiving options, who have been relatively quiet all season prior to Sunday, stepped up in a big way: Rashard Higgins, Harrison Bryant, and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Higgins led the team with six receptions and 110 receiving yards, and Bryant caught two touchdown receptions.

Peoples-Jones, a rookie like Bryant, snagged the game-winning touchdown from Mayfield with just 11 seconds remaining. Higgins and Peoples-Jones are step into larger roles for the foreseeable future, as the Browns announced on Monday that Beckham Jr. suffered a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.

Defining stat: 7.8 yards per play

What’s next: vs. Las Vegas Raiders — Sunday, Nov. 1 (1:00 p.m. ET)

Bengals lose to Browns: 34-37

On the other side of the spectrum was the Bengals who, stop me if you’ve heard this before, dropped a one-possession game in the final minutes. You should have stopped me, because it’s now happened four times this season. Of Cincinnati’s five losses on the year, all but one of them have been by five points or less.

Like last week against the Colts, the Bengals looked sharp early and jumped out to an early lead — only to see it quickly evaporate as the game progressed. Cincinnati’s defense ultimately failed to hold up their end of the bargain, as has been a recurring theme for much of this season.

The offense, though, more than performed at a winning level. The Bengals poured in nearly 500 yards of total offense and outpaced the Browns in first downs, passing yardage, and yards per carry on the ground. The story of the game was QB Joe Burrow, who put on an incredibly noteworthy performance.

With Joe Mixon out of the lineup, Burrow shouldered even more of the offensive load than usual. He shook off four sacks and consistent pressure to complete 35-of-47 pass attempts for three touchdowns and a whopping 403 yards. He also added 34 yards on the ground a touchdown via a QB sneak, too.

It was heroic effort from the No. 1 overall pick, who has put forth similar efforts throughout the season. The common denominator, though, has been that they have unfortunately have not manifested in victories.

Defining stat: Two turnovers

What’s next: vs. Tennessee Titans — Sunday, Nov. 1 (1:00 p.m. ET)