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AFC North Recap, Week 10: Steelers and Browns tighten things up

Movement at the pole ends of the division after a wild Sunday

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Things continue to heat up in the AFC North as the middle of the season roars on. Week 10 was eventful, to say the least, and saw a closing of the gap. The Browns’ win over the Ravens moved them one game closer to first place, as did the Steelers’ second consecutive victory. The Ravens’ loss dropped their lead to only a half-game over both teams.

The Bengals suffered their first loss in over a month and, as a result, are alone at the bottom of the standings. They also temporarily fell out of the playoff picture and are now just one game above .500.

Updated standings:

  1. Baltimore Ravens 7-3
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-3
  3. Cleveland Browns 6-3
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 5-4

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: Win over Green Bay Packers, 23-19

The Steelers won their second consecutive game by a four-point margin despite again being outgained in total yards by the Packers. Pittsburgh has now had less yardage than their opponent in every game this season and are three games above .500.

In contrast to most of their previous games, the Steelers got off to a fast offensive start on Sunday. They scored back-to-back touchdowns on their first two drives followed by a field goal, entering halftime with a lead 13 after their defense allowed two scores.

In the second half, the Packers trimmed their deficit to just one point multiple times but neither team was able to punch the ball in the end zone. The Steelers’ defense again made game-changing plays late with consecutive interceptions off Jordan Love on the final two possessions of the game.

The Steelers appear to have found their groove running the ball as they had success for a second straight contest. Jaylen Warren rushed for a career-high 101 yards on 15 carries while Najee Harris totaled 82 yards and scored his third touchdown in the past four games. This was paramount, as the Steelers gained only just over 100 yards through the air.

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Loss to Houston Texans, 27-30

The Bengals were riding high into Week 10 as one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of four straight games. After consecutive big wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills, though, their momentum was squashed on Sunday in an upset home loss to the Texans.

After leading for almost the entire first quarter, Cincinnati’s offense went quiet to close the opening half. They didn’t score again until late in the third quarter despite their defense forcing two fumbles in the first half. The Texans took a field goal lead just before the break and never trailed again.

Every time the Bengals scored and appeared primed to re-take the advantage, rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and the Texans had a response. Joe Burrow was intercepted twice in the second half on back-to-back possessions. The Bengals defense ceded a six-play, 55-yard drive with just over a minute remaining, which ended with a walk-off field goal by Houston.

The Bengals ultimately played well enough to win most games, as they had 20 first downs and just under 400 yards of offense. However, they gave up 28 first downs and a whopping 544 total yards to the Texans. The Bengals won the turnover battle and third down conversion battle, but Houston’s big-play advantage proved to be key.

Cleveland Browns

Result: Win over Baltimore Ravens, 33-31

Things got off to a putrid start for the Browns in Baltimore, as Deshaun Watson was intercepted for a touchdown on the second play of the game. After trailing 17-3 in the first quarter, though, the Browns continued to hang around in striking distance before ultimately making a late push and seizing momentum.

Cleveland’s top-ranked defense settled in and allowed no points in the second quarter and only two scoring drives in the second half. The Browns scored on their final three offensive possessions of the game for 16 total points, and they were able to quickly erase a 14-point deficit early in the fourth quarter.

Immediately following a 75-yard touchdown drive to make it a one-possession game, cornerback Greg Newsome II intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown. That preceded a 12-play, 58-yard drive that set up Dustin Hopkins’ game-winning field goal conversion as time expired.

The Browns had more first downs, yards, and won the time of possession battle. After a rocky start, quarterback Deshaun Watson was heroic in the second half. Watson completed all 14 of his pass attempts over the final two quarters and picked up numerous chunk yards on scrambles. He broke what felt like 100 sacks over the course of the game.

Baltimore Ravens

Result: Loss to Cleveland Browns, 31-33

On the flip side of the Browns’ victory, the Ravens suffered another disappointing loss in which they had a very high win probability in the fourth quarter. The Ravens were the league’s darling heading into Week 10 with a four-game win streak and multiple blowout victories over division leaders. They fell back to earth in this game and squandered a chance to hold a decisive advantage in the division.

The Ravens held a two-touchdown lead at numerous points over the Browns but were never able to stretch their lead beyond that. After scoring on each of their first two offensive drives, they were never able to get into a groove. Their final drives of the first half ended with a punt, blocked field goal, and interception.

A short Gus Edwards touchdown run gave them a 31-17 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Then, the aforementioned pick-six by Lamar Jackson two drives later put the Browns in immediate position to take their first lead of the game.

The Ravens’ vaunted defense had a forgettable performance. While they held the Browns out of the end zone in the first half, they ultimately gave up six scoring drives and could not get a much-needed stop late. They were gashed on the ground for 178 rushing yards on nearly 5.0 yards per carry.