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AFC North Preview: Week 15: ‘not-so-soft welcoming’

The latest in the AFC North

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Week 15 of the 2022 NFL season is here. The AFC North remains highly competitive as the top two teams are neck-and-neck in the standings. Meanwhile, the other two teams in the division would be eliminated from the playoff race with one more loss.

Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

Despite resorting to their third-string quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, the Baltimore Ravens were able to escape with another divisional victory. The Ravens will hit the road on a short week now as they travel to Cleveland to face the Browns on Saturday as 3-point underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson remains sidelined with a knee injury, meaning either Tyler Huntley or Anthony Brown will start on Saturday. Huntley was cleared from the concussion protocol and practiced in full on Wednesday and Thursday. Baltimore will likely lean heavily on the run again this week against a weak Browns’ run defense.

Guard Kevin Zeitler (knee), offensive tackle Morgan Moses (knee) and punter Jordan Stout (knee) all practiced fully on Thursday and are listed as questionable for Saturday’s game.

Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)

The Cincinnati Bengals march on as one of the hottest teams in the AFC with a 23-10 victory over the Browns in Week 14. The Bengals will now travel to Tampa Bay to take on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers as 3.5-point road favorites, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Cincinnati is currently dealing with injuries to two of their top wide receivers as both Tee Higgins (hamstring) and Tyler Boyd (finger) have been limited in practice so far this week. The Bengals also suffered multiple blows on defense as defensive end Trey Hendrickson (wrist) and cornerback Mike Hilton (knee) both left last Sunday’s game with injuries. Neither player practiced on Wednesday or Thursday. Tight end Hayden Hurst (calf) has yet to return to practice either.

Second-year defensive end Joseph Ossai is in line to get his first career start if Hendrickson is unable to play this Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Cleveland Browns (5-8)

Cleveland’s playoff chances took a massive blow with their loss to Cincinnati in Week 14. A loss this week would eliminate the Browns from the playoffs as they host the Ravens as 3-point favorites, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Through his first two games back from suspension, quarterback Deshaun Watson has yet to perform up to the standards set during his time with the Houston Texans, telling 92.3 The Fan that he is “not close” to where he wants to be. Watson will face a stingy Baltimore defense this week that, according to cornerback Marlon Humphrey, will be looking to give him a “not-so-soft welcoming.”

Rookie wide receiver David Bell (thumb, toe) was the only player to receive an injury designation for Saturday’s game. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is expected to play through his hip injury once again.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8)

Similar to Cleveland, Pittsburgh’s playoff chances took a big hit with their loss last Sunday. A loss this week would also eliminate the Steelers from playoff contention. Pittsburgh will travel to Carolina to face the Panthers as 3-point underdogs this Sunday, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett exited the game against the Ravens with a concussion and has been limited in practice as he works through the concussion protocol. Mitch Trubisky will start against the Panthers if Pickett is unable to play. Trubisky moved the ball effectively against the Ravens but committed three costly turnovers.

Linebacker Myles Jack (groin), tight end Pat Freiermuth (foot), and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (toe) did not participate in either Wednesday or Thursday’s practices. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson (foot) missed Thursday’s practice.