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AFC North Preview, Week 14: Steelers in primetime, Ravens back in action, Browns and Bengals take on AFC South

Taking a look ahead for the AFC North.

NFL: DEC 16 Patriots at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens (9-3)

The division-leading Ravens are fresh off their Week 13 bye and will take on the other Los Angeles franchise, except this time, they will be playing at home in M&T Bank Stadium instead of on the road at SoFi Stadium. This interconference matchup looked like a mismatch about a month again when the Rams were sputtering and had lost three straight heading into their Week 10 bye but since have rattled off three straight wins and are now back in the mix for an NFC Wildcard spot.

This will be the first meeting between the two seasons since the 2021 season when the Rams went on to win the Super Bowl and the Ravens were their 12th and final regular season win in Week 17. That game also took place in Baltimore and wound up going down to the wire but Los Angeles was able to prevail thanks to current Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. scoring a late game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The well-rested Ravens are heading into this game the healthiest they’ve been since the season opener. While they had seven players listed on their initial injury report on Wednesday, only third-year wide receiver Rashod Bateman didn’t participate in practice due to a minor illness. Their only limited participants were linebacker Malik Harrison (groin) and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (concussion). The four full participants included rookie outside linebackers Malik Hamm (ankle) and Trenton Simpson (concussion), second-year cornerback Damarion Williams (ankle), and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey who missed the last two games ahead of the bye with a calf injury.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)

Their second game since firing former Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada didn’t go as well as the first and resulted in them losing to a previously two-win Arizona Cardinals team in Week 13. Although they did manage to not be outgained in yardage for the 11th time this season, they were outscored by double figures and will now host another two-win team for the second week in a row in the New England Patriots, except this time it will take place in primetime on Thursday Night Football.

This will be the 11th meeting between the two teams since the 2010 season and the Patriots have gone 8-2 during that stretch including winning the last two. However, this is far from the juggernaut New England team that handed them five straight losses from 2013-2017. Their offense has been anemic for most of the season and their quarterback play has been arguably the worst in the league. But their defense has been stout for most of the year, especially as of late having only given up an average of 8.6 points in their last three games.

Pittsburgh has ruled out two players, listed four as questionable to play, and removed four players from their final injury report on Wednesday. The pair of players that won’t be suiting up are starting quarterback Kenny Pickett, who recently underwent ankle surgery and will reportedly miss up to four weeks, and cornerback James Pierre who missed practice all week with a shoulder injury. The questionable quartet consists of linebacker Elandon Roberts (groin), offensive guard Isaac Seumalo (shoulder), center Mason Cole (neck), and running back Najee Harris (knee).

Cleveland Browns (7-5)

In their third game since losing quarterback Deshaun Watson to a season-ending injury, the Browns suffered their second straight loss in a 36-19 defeat to the Rams on the road. Although the final deficit was double figures, the game was close until the final minutes and their offense looked arguably the best it has all season with former Ravens franchise quarterback Joe Flacco under center.

The Browns will be back home this week where they will host the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are coming off an upset on Monday Night Football and will likely be without their franchise quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, who suffered a high ankle sprain late in the game. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since the 2020 season when the Browns won 27-25. The Jaguars have won four of their last six matchups since 2010 including three of the last four.

The players who did not take the practice field on Wednesday include defensive end Myles Garrett (shoulder), offensive guard Joe Bitonio (knee), wide receiver Amari Cooper (rest, ribs), running back Kareem Hunt (groin), tight end David Njoku (knee), defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (groin), and free safety Juan Thornhill (calf). Offensive tackle Geron Christian was the only player dealing with a minor injury who was a full participant. The Browns’ lengthy list of limited participants includes the following:

  • DE Shelby Harris (Achilles)
  • C Nick Harris (knee)
  • CB Denzel Ward (shoulder)
  • DE Ogbo Okoronkwo (groin)
  • CB Cameron Mitchell (hamstring)
  • OG Wyatt Teller (calf)
  • WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion)
  • QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (concussion)

Cincinnati Bengals (6-6)

The two-time defending AFC North champions remain in last place but snapped their three-game losing skid with an upset overtime win over the Jaguars in Week 13 in primetime. In their second game without franchise quarterback Joe Burrow, they tied their highest-scoring outing of the season and were propelled to a 34-31 victory by fifth-year veteran journeyman Jake Browning. The Bengals will be trying to notch their third conference win and keep their slim playoff hopes alive in Week 14 when they host a surging Indianapolis Colts team that is riding the longest active winning streak in the league at four in a row.

This will be the first meeting between the two teams since the 2020 season and they’ve split their last eight matchups 4-4 dating back to 2010. Instead of a faceoff between top-five picks with both Burrow and 2023 fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson on season-ending injured reserve, this matchup will feature a pair of frisky backups in Browning and fellow fifth-year veteran Gardner Minshew.

The Bengals are mostly healthy heading into this game and while they had five players listed on their initial injury report on Wednesday, all of them participated on a limited basis. Three didn’t even have injuries and were given rest designations and the only two who are dealing with minor injuries are running back Chase Brown (hamstring) and offensive tackle Jonah Williams (back).