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AFC North Roundup: Week 8

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Week 8 came and went, and once again the Steelers won a football game. They did so once again in dramatic fashion, at the expense of the Ravens in a high-stakes AFC North showdown. In doing so, Pittsburgh strengthened their hold on first place in the division.

Elsewhere, the Browns faltered at home against the Raiders, failing to capitalize on a chance to move up in the standings. The Bengals were the most impressive team in the division this week, upsetting the Titans in convincing fashion.

Updated Standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-0
  2. Baltimore Ravens 5-2
  3. Cleveland Browns 5-3
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 2-5-1

Browns lose to Raiders: 6-16

Just a week after an offensive explosion and last-minute victory over the Bengals, the Browns fell back to earth in a big way in Week 8. Cleveland’s offense looked like a shell of itself compared to their performance last Sunday, which was unfortunate considering their defense stepped up to the plate.

This was a sloppy game all around. On the opening drives for each respective team, the Raiders missed a field goal and the Browns responded with a fumble. Cleveland briefly took a 3-0 lead, but two Las Vegas field goals before halftime thwarted their advantage.

The Raiders opened things up a bit in the second half, jumping out to a 16-6 lead after the Browns ceded back-to-back scoring drives of 15 and 13 plays, respectively. Cleveland’s defense effectively took away the big-play potential of the Raiders offense, holding Derek Carr to just 112 passing yards and giving up no run longer than 18 yards on the ground.

However, Las Vegas was able to gradually grind out long drives and wound up rushing for a team total of 208 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. The Browns were just as efficient on the ground, but only rushed 22 times for just a shade over 100 combined yards.

Baker Mayfield had perhaps the best performance of his career last week but completed less than 50% (12-of-25) of his throws against the Raiders. He didn’t turn the ball over, but only threw for 122 yards. If the Browns don’t fumble in the first quarter or miss a field goal in the fourth quarter, this is at the very least likely a one possession game — one that they may have been able to pull out.

Defining stat: 3/10 on third down

What’s next: Bye Week

Bengals defeat Titans: 31-20

After a slew of gut-wrenching defeats that saw the Bengals crumble late in games, they finally put together a complete performance — and did so against one of the top teams in the AFC.

Taking advantage of some early miscues by the Titans, the Bengals jumped out a 10-0 lead and led 17-7 at halftime. This elicited flashbacks to their performance against the Colts, where they held a 21-point advantage early but ultimately saw their lead evaporate. This time around, though, they kept their foot on the gas pedal.

Cincinnati’s defense forced two punts to begin the third quarter, which allowed the Bengals offense to expand their lead to 24-7. Both teams traded touchdowns from there, but the Titans were already out of reach after a slow start.

The Bengals were gashed on the ground once again, as many teams are when facing the Titans, and gave up 218 rushing yards. Tennessee averaged 7.5 yards per carry, but it didn’t manifest in more than 20 points. Cincinnati’s defense did a nice job of getting off the field more frequently, which has been an issue for them this season.

QB Joe Burrow played another efficient game and did not turn the ball over for the first time in several weeks. He hit on all but 11 of his 37 pass attempts and threw two touchdowns, one to Tyler Boyd and the other to Giovani Bernard. Bernard drew the start at running back for the second straight week and scored twice.

Defining stat: 10/15 on third down

What’s next: Bye Week

Steelers defeat Ravens: 28-24

It was far from a flawless performance, but the Steelers were once again able to prevail against a top AFC contender. Whereas they started fast and slowed late against the Titans, they dug themselves an early hole against Baltimore.

Pittsburgh did next to nothing offensively in the first half, scoring only off an interception returned for a touchdown less than a minute into the game. They fumbled on their first offensive drive and punted three straight times after that, yet were fortunate enough to only trail by 10 points at halftime.

Another forced turnover in the third quarter, there third of the game, put them squarely in scoring position — which is when the tide began to turn. Ben Roethlisberger found Eric Ebron for a quick score and orchestrated a 10-play touchdown drive on the following possession, giving Pittsburgh a 21-17 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Leading by four points with just minutes remaining, their defense prevailed on back-to-back possessions. On their heels in the red zone, the Steelers forced a fumble and turnover on downs on 4th-&-3. Then, Minkah Fitzpatrick broke up a desperation pass attempt to Willie Snead IV in the end zone as time expired, shutting the door on a Ravens comeback.

The Steelers were far from dynamic offensively. They converted just 3-of-9 third down attempts, averaged less than 5.0 yards per play, and rushed for a grand total of 48 yards. However, despite being outplayed in the box score, the Steelers won in the margins, with their advantage in the turnover battle making the difference.

Defining stat: +3 turnover differential

What’s next: @ Dallas Cowboys — Sunday, Nov. 8 (1:00 p.m. ET)

Ravens lose to Steelers: 24-28

Things got off to a rocky start for the Ravens, with Lamar Jackson tossing his first pick-six on just the third play from scrimmage. Baltimore responded well to early adversity and put themselves in a position to win, but this foreshadowed what would wind up being a rough performance from Jackson.

The Ravens put together a 75-yard scoring drive on the following possession, evening up the score at seven points each. They appeared primed to expand upon this lead quickly after Marcus Peters stripped Chase Claypool in Steelers territory just a few plays later, but oddly enough the Ravens gave the ball right back. Jackson was stripped from behind by Bud Dupree on 2nd-&-Goal.

Baltimore’s defense had the Steelers on the ropes regardless, though, and the Ravens led by 10 points at halftime — an advantage that frankly should have been greater. Come the second half, another interception by Jackson in Ravens territory saw the momentum of the game swing entirely in Pittsburgh’s favor.

The Steelers jumped on a 14-0 advantage in the third quarter and while the Ravens responded with a long touchdown drive to reclaim a 24-21 lead in the final frame of play, they couldn’t execute down the stretch late. Baltimore trailed by four points and failed to convert on a fourth down attempt just several yards from the end zone, as Jackson was wrapped up and fumbled on a designed quarterback draw.

Baltimore rushed for a season-high 265 yards on the ground and averaged 5.6 yards per carry, as Gus Edwards (87 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (113 yards) stepped up in the absence of Mark Ingram. To no avail, though, as the Ravens decisive advantages in the box score did not result in a victory in the end.

LT Ronnie Stanley suffered an early ankle fracture after getting rolled up on by T.J. Watt and will unfortunately miss the remainder of the season.

Defining stat: -3 turnover differential

What’s next: @ Indianapolis Colts — Sunday, Nov. 8 (1:00 p.m. ET)