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AFC North Recap, Week 13: Wins all the way around

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ midseason ascent continued in Week 13 with a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at home, their fourth straight win. Still, the Bengals remain second in the division by virtue of tiebreaker, as the Ravens too improved to 8-4 with a narrow win against the Denver Broncos.

The Browns and Steelers both helped themselves as well. Both teams won their respective matchups and are now on two-game winning streaks for the first time this season.

Updated standings:

  1. Baltimore Ravens 8-4
  2. Cincinnati Bengals 8-4
  3. Cleveland Browns 5-7
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-7

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: Win over Atlanta Falcons, 19-16

The Steelers took care of business in Atlanta, coming out on top of another low-scoring affair. Pittsburgh’s offense scored on four straight possessions in the first half and although all but one of those resulted in field goals, it was good enough for a 10-point advantage.

Then, after trailing 19-6 early in the third quarter, the Falcons used a quick 10-0 run to climb back in the game. The Steelers stalled late with back-to-back punts, but they used just enough clock late to force the Falcons into a unfavorable comeback situation. Minkah Fitzpatrick’s interception with 30 seconds remaining in regulation sealed the deal.

The Steelers’ rushing attack continued to show signs of life. They gained 154 rushing yards on 37 carries as a team, with Najee Harris leading the way (86 yards, 5.1 yards per carry). Kenny Pickett also continues to take better care of the ball, which is an important development.

The rookie quarterback has not thrown an interception since Week 5. His 57-yard completion to tight end Pat Freiermuth in Sunday’s game was Pickett’s longest pass connection of the season.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns

Result: Win over Houston Texans, 27-14

The Browns overcame a sluggish start in Houston to pull away from the Texans in the second half and coast to a 13-point win. It was a defensive eruption for the Browns, who forced four turnovers and scored two touchdowns off an interception and fumble return.

Donovan Peoples-Jones also ripped off a 76-yard punt return touchdown in the second quarter, which gave the Browns their first points of the game. This helped make up for what was a subpar offensive outing in Deshaun Watson’s season debut as the team’s starting quarterback.

Watson completed 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards and was intercepted once. No Cleveland pass-catcher had more than 44 receiving yards. The Browns only made one trip the red zone and had less overall first downs than the Texans.

Fortunately, Cleveland’s defense was stifling and the Browns ran the ball well once again, totaling 174 yards on 38 carries as a team.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens

Result: Win over Denver Broncos, 10-9

Despite losing starting quarterback Lamar Jackson to a knee injury in the first quarter, the Ravens found a way to win in Week 13. The Ravens labored offensively until the final drive of the game, where they finally scored the touchdown they needed to take a lead late.

Baltimore’s defense needed to pick up the slack for a subpar offensive showing and they answered the bell. They held the Broncos to 88 rushing yards and allowed just two third down conversions on Denver’s 12 attempts. While they streak of forced turnovers came to end, the Ravens would be happy to allow zero touchdowns every game moving forward.

Tyler Huntley orchestrated a 16-play, 91-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, which he capped off with a go-ahead touchdown run with just over 30 seconds left. The Broncos had a chance to win, but Brandon McManus’ 63-yard kick fell short as time expired.

This is the second time in three weeks, and second straight home game, in which the Ravens won despite scoring only one touchdown and 13 points or less. They were not able to find success pushing the ball downfield nor running against the Broncos’ defense, but a win is a win.

Kansas City Chiefs v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Win over Kansas City Chiefs, 27-24

For the second straight time in the regular season and third time overall since last year, the Bengals topped the Chiefs in their head-to-head meeting. Like the last two matchups, this game was again decided by three points, and the Bengals executed late to pull out a win.

Cincinnati came out firing to begin the game, taking a quick 14-3 lead following back-to-back touchdown drives in the opening quarter. Then, the Chiefs took momentum and three touchdowns over the next four possessions to lead by seven points in the third quarter.

A late 10-0 run by the Bengals, in which they forced a turnover and converted on key downs, saw them re-gain control. The Chiefs missed a potential game-tying field goal late and the Bengals ran the clock out following a crucial first down pickup on 3rd & 11.

The Bengals totaled 26 first downs, 431 yards and converted 7-of-11 third down attempts. Joe Burrow completed all but six of 31 throws and had two touchdown passes, while Ja’Marr Chase led the team in receiving in his return from injury (seven catches, 97 yards).