The AFC North remains the tightest division in all of football through 11 weeks with all four teams over .500 in the record column. Baltimore and Cleveland both won close games on Sunday, Cincinnati rebounded with a convincing victory, while Pittsburgh dropped a heartbreaker on Sunday Night Football.
Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
The Ravens were dealt the ultimate blow ahead of their matchup with the Chicago Bears when it was revealed that quarterback Lamar Jackson would miss the game with an illness. Alongside Jackson, cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith were also surprise inactives, leaving Baltimore with three healthy cornerbacks for the contest. Wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was also ruled out earlier in the week with a thigh injury while defensive tackle Brandon Williams missed his third game in a row.
Despite these more than unfortunate circumstances, the Ravens put their heads down and went to work with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley behind center. They pulled out a gritty 16-13 win over the Bears to improve to 7-3 and stay atop the AFC North. The offense struggled for most of the day and the Bears sacked Huntley six times. However, when it mattered most, following a deep touchdown from backup quarterback Andy Dalton on 4th & 11 to put Chicago ahead 13-9, the Ravens answered with their first touchdown drive of the day. Following a pass to wide receiver Sammy Watkins to set Baltimore up inside the red zone, running back Devonta Freeman strolled in for the game-winning score.
Baltimore now hopes to get several key players back next week as they head into a three-game divisional stretch.
Cleveland Browns (6-5)
The Browns narrowly escaped the winless Detroit Lions in a 13-10 win on Sunday.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield followed up last week’s poor performance with another one this week as he threw two interceptions while completing only 51.7% of his passes, resulting in fans booing the former first-overall pick. Mayfield was unavailable to the media following the game but did speak on Monday, addressing being booed by fans.
“Those are probably the same fans that won’t be quiet while we’re on offense and trying to operate. So, don’t really care.”
Baker, on the fans that booed him in the second half Sunday: "Those are probably the same fans that won't be quiet while we're on offense and trying to operate. So, don't really care." #Browns pic.twitter.com/muKyxFWdFM— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 22, 2021
Cleveland improved to 6-5 with the win, staying alive in the contested race for the AFC North crown as they face the division-leading Ravens on Sunday Night Football next.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
The Bengals emerged from their bye to stop their two-game losing skid on Sunday by soundly defeating the Las Vegas Raiders by a score of 32-13.
Cincinnati’s offense ran through running back Joe Mixon as he rumbled for 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Quarterback Joe Burrow was efficient through the air, completing 20 of 29 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was the recipient of Burrow’s lone touchdown pass, although he failed to cross 50 receiving yards for the third game in a row since torching Baltimore for 201 yards.
The Bengals’ defense held the Raiders to just 278 total yards of offense while forcing two turnovers.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4)
The Steelers fell short in a shootout against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night, losing 41-37 and falling to last place in the division in the process.
Pittsburgh entered the game without several key players, including outside linebacker T.J. Watt, cornerback Joe Haden, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. After missing last week on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to play. In his return to action, the veteran quarterback threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns on 44 attempts.
The Steelers’ defense was unable to stop the Chargers’ offense, led by quarterback Justin Herbert, who threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 90 yards on the ground.
Pittsburgh will look to win on Sunday against Cincinnati to avoid falling behind in the division race.