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AFC North Preview, Week 14: Momentum shift

Denver Broncos v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

With just over a month remaining in the regular season, the AFC North remains a tight race between the top two teams.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4)

The Baltimore Ravens improved to 8-4 with a 10-9 victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 13 but suffered a massive loss in the process. Quarterback Lamar Jackson exited the game in the first quarter with a sprained PCL. With Tyler Huntley now under center, Baltimore will face the Pittsburgh Steelers as two-point road underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Jackson is expected to be sidelined for 1-3 weeks with the injury during a crucial final stretch of the Ravens’ season. Huntley took over last season as well when Jackson missed the final month with a bone bruise. Despite some admirable performances from Huntley, Baltimore did not win a single game during that span last season, leading to the team missing the playoffs.

In good news for the Ravens, left tackle Ronnie Stanley is expected to play on Sunday after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury. Guard Kevin Zeitler missed most of the week with a knee injury and is listed as questionable following a limited practice on Friday. Inside linebacker Patrick Queen practiced in full on Friday after being limited earlier in the week with a thigh bruise suffered against the Broncos last Sunday and is also listed as questionable.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)

The Cincinnati Bengals put the NFL landscape on notice with their victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last week. The Bengals will now host the Cleveland Browns as 5.5-point favorites this Sunday, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

While Baltimore remains in the lead of the division due to tiebreaker, the two teams could not be trending in further directions. Cincinnati appears poised to make a push to take the lead of the division as the playoffs near despite having a much harder schedule on the horizon. The reigning AFC Super Bowl representatives are peaking at the right time after a rocky start to the season.

Tight end Hayden Hurst has been ruled out for Sunday with a calf injury. Meanwhile, running back Joe Mixon appears ready for a return after practicing in full all week. Mixon has missed the previous two games with a concussion.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)

After defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13, the Steelers will host the Ravens on Sunday as two-point favorites, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Pittsburgh will be looking to get their fifth-straight win over their biggest rival this week. A win on Sunday would also keep the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive. While currently on the bubble, Pittsburgh has a chance to sneak into the postseason with a strong finish to the season. It will take some bounces going their way, but Head Coach Mike Tomlin will certainly have his team prepared, starting this Sunday against a Baltimore squad missing their star quarterback.

Outside linebacker T.J. Watt (ribs) and wide receiver Diontae Johnson (hip) were both listed as questionable on the injury report.

Cleveland Browns (5-7)

The Browns won their first game with quarterback Deshaun Watson under center against the Houston Texans in Week 13. Cleveland will now travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals as 5.5-point underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

As with the Steelers, the Browns are fighting to enter the playoff picture in the final stretch of the season. Cleveland will be looking to sweep Cincinnati on Sunday after defeating them 32-13 in primetime earlier in the season. After playing in his first real game in almost two years, Watson should only get better as he continues to knock the rust off.

Watson could potentially be without his top wide receiver this Sunday after Amari Cooper popped up on the injury report during the week with a hip injury. Cooper is listed as questionable and is the only injury designation for the Browns this week. Tight end David Njoku (knee) is expected to return to the field this Sunday.