Week 13 of the NFL season is now in the rearview mirror. The standings in the AFC North remained the same following this week’s slate of games as both the top two teams lost on Sunday. The Cleveland Browns were absent from action as they enjoy a much-needed bye week before another divisional game.
Baltimore Ravens (8-4)
The Ravens dropped a heartbreaker at Heinz Field after failing to complete a two-point conversion to take the lead at the end of the game. Trailing 20-19 after a late touchdown pass to wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Head Coach John Harbaugh opted to go for the win instead of kicking the extra point and heading to overtime. The play design worked as intended, as tight end Mark Andrews came free in the flats and would have walked into the endzone to win the game if quarterback Lamar Jackson was able to deliver a better pass with outside linebacker T.J. Watt barreling towards him unblocked.
“Try to win the game right there.”— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 6, 2021
Coach Harbaugh on the decision to go for a two-point conversion. pic.twitter.com/CEc3tCDF1i
As Harbaugh said, the team was dealing with a shortage of cornerbacks following the touchdown by wide receiver Diontae Johnson that gave the Steelers the lead and left All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey writhing in pain on the field. It was officially revealed on Monday that Humphrey suffered a season-ending pectoral injury.
Breaking: Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey will be out for the season (torn pec), coach John Harbaugh announced. pic.twitter.com/ZTP7dDwfJm— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 6, 2021
Humphrey joins a never-ending list of players on injured reserve that includes fellow All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters, free safety DeShon Elliott, All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, inside linebacker L.J. Fort, defensive end Derek Wolfe, and running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill. Starting right tackle Patrick Mekari is also expected to miss time with a hand injury.
That is 24.2% of their cap space dedicated solely to injured reserve.— Kyle Phoenix Barber (@KylePBarber) December 6, 2021
The Ravens’ issues extend beyond just injuries though as their MVP quarterback has played rather poorly for the last month — holding the ball too long and inviting pressure, turning the ball over at an uncharacteristically high rate (10 interceptions in the last five games), and failing to take easy completions in favor of looking for the big play instead. Baltimore’s offense has failed to score more than 20 points in their last four outings and has yet to find an effective counter to the heavy amount of blitzes being thrown their way while also struggling to push the ball down the field — something Jackson was excelling at early in the season.
Despite all of this, the Ravens are still first in the AFC North with yet another divisional battle on the horizon for next Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
The Bengals would be sitting atop the division heading into Week 14 if they had won on Sunday. Instead, Cincinnati was blown out by the Los Angeles Chargers at home, 41-22, and remain in second place behind Baltimore.
This was the first meeting between quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, selected with the No. 1 and No. 6 picks respectively in the 2020 NFL Draft. While both quarterbacks have impressed throughout their first two seasons and appear to be the answer for both franchises at the most important position for years to come, it was Herbert that came out on top on Sunday with three touchdowns and one interception to Burrow’s one touchdown and two interceptions.
One of Burrow’s interceptions was clearly not his fault, however, as rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase failed to bring in a perfectly thrown ball deep down the field and instead bobbled the pass into the waiting hands of cornerback Michael Davis.
Thus continued the No. 5 overall pick’s recent struggles after an incredible start to his first season in the NFL. Chase cracked 50 yards receiving for the first time since playing the Ravens in Week 7.
Ja’Marr Chase was asked if he’s frustrated about his dip in production in the latter part of this season.— Caleb Noe (@CalebNoeTV) December 6, 2021
“Hell yeah. Of course ... If I’d made that catch at the beginning of the game, we probably wouldn’t be having this talk right now.” pic.twitter.com/a1q3f24SiT
The biggest concern for the Bengals following the game was Burrow, who suffered a dislocated pinky on the team’s first possession of the game.
Joe Burrow in pain with a pinky injury. He's not happy about it.— Cincinnati (@CincyProblems) December 5, 2021
Burrow gritted it out and played the rest of the game — one in which he was sacked six times — and is not expected to miss any time going forward. Linebacker Logan Wilson exited the game on a cart with a dislocated shoulder and is expected to miss some time.
#Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson is expected to miss an extended period of time with his shoulder injury, per source. Bengals are hopeful it's only one or two games but it's probably going to be longer than that. Wilson having breakout season with 92 tackles, four interceptions— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) December 7, 2021
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1)
In a situation with their season potentially on the line, Pittsburgh rose to the occasion at home and defeated their arch-rivals to stay alive in the playoff hunt for what could be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final ride.
The 39-year-old reportedly told teammates that this could be his final season playing for the team that drafted him No. 11 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft.
More on Ben Roethlisberger privately telling former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers:https://t.co/4NVQLRI5V6— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 4, 2021
Roethlisberger completed 21 of 31 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns — both to Johnson.
"This game is unbelievable... Winning in front of these fans in this place is just special."— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) December 6, 2021
An emotional Ben Roethlisberger talks with @tracywolfson after the @steelers hard fought victory over the Ravens. pic.twitter.com/pzMXfXIQBw
After a dominant performance in which he sacked the quarterback 3.5 times, Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. The highly-paid edge rusher now leads the NFL in sacks with 16 on the season.
For the moment, the Steelers remain in contention for not only the playoffs but for the AFC North with five weeks remaining in the season.