It was another tough week for the AFC North as the Cincinnati Bengals were the only team in the division to record a win in week 15, and the Baltimore Ravens lost their third straight game and now lead the Bengals by just one game for the division lead. All four AFC North teams will be in action in week 16, headlined by a huge division rival matchup between the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers with huge playoff implications.
We begin with the injury plagued Ravens who hosted the Denver Broncos and were embarrassed by Peyton Manning and the Broncos defense as well with a 34-17 defeat in a game that was not nearly as close as the score indicates. At one point in the third quarter, Baltimore trailed 31-3 and only had one chance to make it a game. With the first half coming to an end, trailing 10-0, the Ravens were driving and had the ball on the Broncos four yard line with three timeouts remaining and 30 plus seconds remaining. Instead of calling a timeout after picking up the first down and the ball on the four, Joe Flacco went no huddle and through a fade route to Anquan Boldin at the two yardline, but threw it way to low and it was picked off by Denver's Chris Harris and he returned it 98 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead heading into halftime. Baltimore seemed deflated the entire second half and never made it a game, but did manage to put up two late touchdowns when the Broncos were in prevent mode. Baltimore has now lost three straight games for the first time since 2009, and only have a one game lead in the AFC North. The Ravens did however, clinch a playoff spot, thanks to a loss by the Steelers.
Speaking of the Steelers, they traveled to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in a matchup of two 7-6 teams that were playing for their playoff lives and the right to control their own destiny. It was a pretty good game to watch, but the Cowboys came out on top 27-24 in overtime, thanks to a Brandon Carr interception off of Ben Roethlisberger early in overtime as Carr returned it to the one yard line, and Dan Bailey then kicked the game winning 21 yard field goal for the victory. This was the definition of a battle as the game was tied at halftime, after the third quarter, and of course after the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger made just one mistake in the game, but it was a big one on the interception as he finished the day having completed 24 of 40 pass attempts for 339 yards with two touchdowns and the one interception. Pittsburgh fell to 7-7 on the season and now have to win out to have a hope of making the playoffs.
The Cincinnati Bengals were the lone victor in the AFC North in week 15 as they traveled to Philadelphia and scored 24 unanswered second half points to demolish the Eagles 34-13. Cincinnati trailed 13-10 at halftime, but exploded in the second half thanks to a wheel barrel full of turnovers by the Eagles. Quarterback Andy Dalton had a solid day throwing for 127 yards with two touchdowns (1 rush) and no interceptions, but the star of the show for the Bengals was running back Benjarvis Green-Ellis as he ran for 106 yards with a touchdown on 25 carries. Cincinnati improved to 8-6 with the victory and now hold a one game lead over the Steelers for the final playoff spot, and trail Baltimore by just one game for the division lead. The Bengals can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over the Steelers in week 16.
Although the Cleveland Browns had very slim playoff hopes coming into week 15 at 5-8, they were still a much improved football team who were 5-3 in their last eight games, but the surging Washington Redskins ended any playoff hopes the Browns had behind backup quarterback Kirk Cousins who threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-21 victory over the hosting Browns. Cleveland led 14-10 at halftime, but Washington exploded in the second half for 28 points, and held the Browns to just seven second half points. Rookie running back Trent Richardson only rushed for 28 yards, but did have two touchdowns in the loss, while fellow rookie, quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for 244 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Browns. The loss dropped Cleveland to 5-9 on the season.
All four AFC North teams will be in action in week 16:
- Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) Sunday at 1pm EST
- Cleveland Browns (5-9) at Denver Broncos (11-3) Sunday at 4:05pm EST
- Baltimore Ravens (9-5) vs New York Giants (8-6) Sunday at 4:25pm EST
It should be another exciting week of AFC North football as three of the four teams are playing in big playoff implication games, and you could even throw Cleveland's game in there as Denver is playing for the two seed in the AFC. Baltimore would clinch the division with a win and a Cincinnati loss to Pittsburgh. Unquestionably the Ravens need to come out and play better, even if they do not win, they need to play better, especially after losing two straight home games and the embarrassment of last week.
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