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AFC North Preview, Week 11: Two-team race

Where the division stands in Week 11

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

With ten weeks of the 2022 NFL season in the books, the AFC North appears to be a two-team race for the remaining stretch. For the other two teams in the division, a chance at making the playoffs is not entirely out of reach.

Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

The Baltimore Ravens return from their bye on a three-game winning streak to take on the Carolina Panthers this Sunday as 13-point home favorites, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

The Ravens will face an all-too-familiar foe this week as Baker Mayfield is slated to start at quarterback for the Panthers. Mayfield was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft. Baltimore selected Lamar Jackson with the final pick in the first round, leading to many AFC North duels between the former Heisman winners over the next four seasons.

The Ravens could be without two key players again this week as both tight end Mark Andrews (shoulder, knee) and running back Gus Edwards (hamstring) were listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely and veteran running back Kenyan Drake will both be in line for large workloads if either player is unable to suit up against Carolina. Jackson missed practice on Friday with an illness but is expected to play on Sunday according to Head Coach John Harbaugh.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

The Cincinnati Bengals are also returning from a bye week and will face the Pittsburgh Steelers as 3.5-point road favorites this Sunday, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

The Bengals will be hoping to get their first divisional win of the season this week against a struggling Steelers team. Cincinnati is 0-3 in the division so far this season. When comparing their remaining strength of schedule with that of Baltimore, winning the division will be an uphill battle at this point for the reigning AFC Super Bowl representatives.

Cincinnati received some welcomed news on the injury front as defensive tackle D.J. Reader is set to return to the field this Sunday after being sidelined since Week 3 of the season with a knee injury. Rookie defensive back Daxton Hill (shoulder) has been declared out for Week 11 while cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) is listed as questionable. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase remains out with a hip injury.

Cleveland Browns (3-6)

After a 39-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 10, the Cleveland Browns will now face the Buffalo Bills as 7.5-point underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Originally scheduled to be played in Buffalo, the Browns will instead hit the road to Detroit as the game was relocated to Ford Field due to a massive snowstorm in Buffalo.

The Browns currently have two games remaining to play before their new franchise quarterback returns to the field. Watson — currently serving an 11-game suspension — returned to practice this week and will make his debut with Cleveland in Week 13 against the Houston Texans. Until then, Jacoby Brissett will continue to serve as the team’s quarterback.

Tight end David Njoku (ankle) is listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report but is expected to play on Sunday. Cornerback Greg Newsome II has been ruled out due to a concussion suffered in Friday’s practice.

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)

Following a Week 10 victory over the New Orleans Saints, the Steelers will host the Bengals as 3.5-point home underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Pittsburgh will look to sweep one of their division rivals with a second win over Cincinnati this week.

An ongoing storyline has been the increased workload of undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren. This in turn has left second-year running back Najee Harris with fewer opportunities. The 2021 first-round pick played 60% of the offensive snaps, while Warren played 43% against the Saints. How Pittsburgh splits backfield duties going forward is worth monitoring.

A week after getting outside linebacker T.J. Watt back, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will join him after missing last week due to an appendectomy. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) has been ruled out for Week 11.