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AFC North Preview: Week 17

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)

The Steelers stopped their losing skid last week with a comeback win against the Colts to clinch the AFC North. Pittsburgh has decided to rest several key starters this week when they travel to Cleveland to face the Browns, including QB Ben Roethlisberger, C Maurkice Pouncey, OLB T.J. Watt, and DT Cameron Heyward.

QB Mason Rudolph will get the start for the Steelers on Sunday. This is the first time Rudolph will be on the field at the same time as DE Myles Garrett after the two’s physical altercation last year which resulted in Garrett being suspended for the rest of the season. While Pittsburgh has nothing to lose, they could make the path to the playoffs much harder for Cleveland by beating them this week.

Alongside the aforementioned players, K Chris Boswell, S Terrell Edmunds, CB Joe Haden, and WR Deon Cain are all out.

Cleveland Browns (10-5)

The Browns blew an opportunity to challenge for the division title in Week 17 after losing to the Jets last week. The good news for Cleveland is that they still control their own destiny, needing only to win on Sunday against the Rudolph-led Steelers to make the playoffs.

The bad news for the Browns is that several players will miss Sunday’s game due to testing positive for COVID-19, including TE Harrison Bryant, LB B.J. Goodson, LB Malcolm Smith, S Andrew Sendejo, and CB Denzel Ward. S Karl Joseph was also placed on the Reserve/COVID list but is hopeful to play on Sunday due to only being labeled as a close contact.

C Nick Harris has been ruled out with a knee injury, while LB Tae Davis, T Kendall Lamm, LB Sione Takitaki, and G Wyatt Teller are all questionable.

Baltimore Ravens (10-5)

The Ravens also face a “win and get in” situation on Sunday against the Bengals. Baltimore cannot afford to overlook a feisty Cincinnati team that has won its last two games.

The Ravens have won their last four games and are gaining momentum at the perfect moment in the season. The Bengals would love nothing more than to have a repeat of Week 17 of 2017 when they spoiled Baltimore’s playoff chances. While it is still possible for the Ravens to make the playoffs even if they lose on Sunday, backing into the playoffs on the heels of a loss to a team with nothing to play for would not be a recipe for success.

DE Calais Campbell, CB Marlon Humphrey, RB Mark Ingram, C Patrick Mekari, OLB Yannick Ngakoue, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Marcus Peters, WR Willie Snead IV, RB Gus Edwards, and RT D.J. Fluker are all listed as questionable on the injury report.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-10)

Cincinnati enters the final week of the season on a two-game winning streak with an opportunity to potentially spoil a divisional rival’s hopes of making the playoffs for the second time in recent years.

Brandon Allen will once again start at QB after an impressive performance last week in a win against the Texans. Allen will face a much tougher defense this week, although one that is riddled with injuries at the moment. The Bengals have nothing to lose on Sunday, making them a dangerous opponent standing in Baltimore’s way of the postseason. One storyline to note this week is that star WR A.J. Green could be playing his final game for Cincinnati, where he has spent his entire 10-year career. Geno Atkins’ time could be at an end for the Bengals as well, although he hasn’t played for much of the last month after being placed on injured reserve.

C B.J. Finney, CB William Jackson, and LB Logan Wilson, and DT Mike Daniels have all been declared out for Sunday.