Week 9 of the NFL season is now in the rearview mirror. All four teams in the AFC North sit above .500 through the first nine weeks.
Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
As they have many times this season, the Baltimore Ravens fell to an early deficit on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Despite trailing by 14 points twice in the game, the Ravens rallied to pull off an overtime win, improving to 6-2 and maintaining their division lead.
Baltimore’s offense struggled to move the ball early in the game while the defense allowed multiple big plays. First, giving up a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Justin Jefferson on the Vikings’ first drive — followed by a 66-yard run to running back Dalvin Cook on the ensuing drive that also ended in a touchdown.
After cutting the lead to one possession before halftime, the Vikings returned the opening half kickoff for a touchdown to go up 24-10. The Ravens continued to fight, eventually tying the game. Following an interception by linebacker Anthony Barr on the Ravens’ first possession in overtime, Baltimore’s defense stood tall and forced a quick three-and-out, leading to Justin Tucker putting the nail in the coffin with a game-winning 36-yard field goal.
Cleveland Browns (5-4)
Following a week of drama surrounding wide receiver Odell Beckham that culminated in his release from the team, the Cleveland Browns responded with a dominant 41-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield answered his critics with the best game of his season. Mayfield was efficient in delivering the ball to multiple players throughout the day, including a 60-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. Running back Nick Chubb was once again the star of the offense as he rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, including a 70-yard run in the third quarter.
Cleveland’s defense had its best performance of the season as well. The unit suffocated quarterback Joe Burrow, forcing two interceptions and sacking him five times.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Chubb and fellow running back Demetric Felton tested positive for COVID-19. Since both players are vaccinated, it is possible for them to return in time to play in Week 10.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
The Pittsburgh Steelers escaped Monday night to improve to 5-3 with a win over the Chicago Bears following some questionable officiating.
Up 23-20, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of seven yards on 3rd-&-8 by defensive end Cassius Marsh. Following the play, Marsh was flagged for taunting, thus giving Pittsburgh a new set of downs, leading to a 52-yard field goal from Chris Boswell to extend the lead to six.
This was just called taunting. The officiating in the NFL continues to be a disaster. This entire game has been pathetic. pic.twitter.com/08UgyGyhJC— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) November 9, 2021
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields answered back with a touchdown drive to take a 27-26 lead. With just under a minute left in regulation and trailing by one point, Pittsburgh marched down the field and kicked another field goal, this time from 40 yards to take a two-point lead with under 30 seconds left in the game. The game ended with a failed 65-yard field goal attempt from Bears’ kicker Cairo Santos.
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt continued his campaign for Defensive Player of the Year on Monday night with three sacks and a pass deflection against Fields.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
Following a shocking loss to the New York Jets in Week 8, the Bengals fell flat on their face in Week 9 against the Browns, dropping them to last place in the AFC North.
At the end of a long opening drive for Cincinnati, quarterback Joe Burrow threw an interception to cornerback Denzel Ward that was returned 99 yards for a touchdown, setting the tone for what was to come. Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was held under 50 receiving yards for the second consecutive game following his massive 201-yard performance in Week 7.
Just a few weeks removed from holding the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Bengals now sit at the bottom of the AFC North at 5-4. Cincinnati enters their bye week on a two-game losing streak looking to bounce back against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 11 to maintain their spot in the race for the division crown.