It took four tries, but the Baltimore Ravens finally clinched the AFC North Division title for the second consecutive year, thanks to their 33-14 shellacking of the New York Giants. The division as a whole had a .500 week with two wins and two losses.
First we will start with the now, AFC North Division Champion Baltimore Ravens as they hosted the New York Giants. Baltimore's offense finally put together four consistent quarters, and their defense arguable played their best game of the season as the Ravens dominated the Giants 33-14 in a game that was not even as close as the score indicates. Baltimore jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to two Joe Flacco touchdowns, the first a six yard TD pass to Torrey Smith, and the second a 1-yard quarterback sneak. New York responded with a touchdown of their own to make at a 14-7 game at the end of the first quarter, but Baltimore would continue their domination. The Ravens scored ten unanswered second quarter points, and three Justin Tucker field goals in the second half to build a 33-7 lead in the fourth quarter before the Giants would score a mercy touchdown. All told, Baltimore scored 19 unanswered points, and held New York to just 186 total yards of offense. Flacco finished the game with 309 yards three touchdowns (one rush) and no turnovers, while both Bernard Pierece (123 yards on 14 carries) and Ray Rice (107 yards on 24 carries) broke the century mark rushing to help lead the team to 533 total yards of offense, a season high. The victory improve the Ravens to 10-5 on the season and guarantees them a home playoff game in two weeks.
Next we will take a look at the lone inter-division matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that was basically a playoff elimination. Cincinnati never trailed in the game, but needed a fourth quarter field goal for the 13-10 victory, and clinched a wild card spot in the process. The Bengals took a 10-0 lead before the Steelers scored ten unanswered points of their own to tie the game in the third quarter, but a Josh Brown 43 yard field goal with just four seconds remaining gave Cincinnati the victory and a playoff berth. Pittsburgh had the ball and was driving as the fourth quarter was coming to a close, but Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception on Cincinnati's 46 yard line to help set up the Bengals quick game winning drive. With the loss the Pittsburgh Steelers are eliminated from playoff contention, and have lost three straight games since Roethlisberger's return.
The Cleveland Browns fell victim to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos domination, much like the Ravens a week ago as Denver clobbered the Browns 34-12. Manning scorched Cleveland for 339 yards and three touchdowns, while rookie Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden only mustered 104 passing yards with no touchdowns. The loss dropped the Browns to 5-10 on the season.
This Sunday will mark the end of the season for the Browns and Steelers, and low-en-behold they will play each other, while the two playoff teams out of the division will play each other as well as Baltimore will travel to Cincinnati for their end of the regular season matchup. If the stones fall correctly, Baltimore and Cincinnati could play each other in back to back weeks, as Cincinnati could end up having to travel to Baltimore for the Wild Card round in the playoffs in two weeks.
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