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AFC North Thursday: Cincinnati Bengals Clinch, Baltimore Ravens Have Playoff Hopes

December 26th, 2013 at 9:50 AM
By Josh Michael

Week 16 finally produced a AFC North division Champion as the Cincinnati Bengals clinched the title courtesy of a win and a Baltimore Ravens loss. The Ravens and even the Pittsburgh Steelers still have a shot at a postseason berth heading into the regular season's final week, but both need help.

'where the Bengals play, across the way' photo (c) 2007, Robert Meeks - license:

Baltimore and Pittsburgh have a chance at securing the sixth and final wildcard spot in the AFC, but will enter the final week not only battling each other for that spot, but the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers as well.

We will start with the Ravens who played a stinker of a game in week 16 as the visiting New England Patriots routed the defending champs 41-7 to give Baltimore their worst home loss in franchise history. Baltimore was held scoreless for the first three quarters, and saw their hopes of a third straight AFC North title come to an end. Quarterback Joe Flacco was obviously not himself with the knee brace on as we saw several balls under thrown or late and he did not have the same zip on the ball. Although he would not use the knee and or brace as an excuse after the game, it was easily apparent it had an effect on his game.

The now division Champion Bengals were victorious in week 16 and in fact put up one of the most impressive performances of the week as they blew out the Minnesota Vikings 42-14 to clinch the AFC North. Cincinnati posted 14 points in each of the first three quarters to cruise to an easy victory. Quarterback Andy Dalton had a phenomenal game as he completed 27 of 38 pass attempts for 366 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and hooked up with A.J. Green seven times for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

Hanging on by a thread, the Steelers marched into Green Bay and produced a 38-31 thriller of a victory over a Packers team that was still without Aaron Rodgers. Pittsburgh stood out in one particular time of the game as they scored 21 points in the third quarter, which was 11 more points than either team scored in any other quarter. Green Bay battled back to tie the game at 31, but the Steelers were able to produce one final, game winning drive to secure their seventh victory of the season and will need a ton of help in week 17 to get into the playoffs, but they are still mathematically alive.

The Cleveland Browns continued their second half downward spiral as they fell to the New York Jets 24-13 for their sixth loss in a row, and their tenth loss in their last 11 games. It has been a struggle for a Browns team that was 3-2 at one point this season, and now find themselves in prime position for a top 5-7 draft pick in April. Cleveland allowed Jets quarterback Geno Smith to throw for two touchdowns and rush for another.

Week 17 will produce two inter-division matchups as the Ravens take on the Bengals in Cincinnati, while the Steelers will host the Browns. The Bengals will be vying for a possible first round bye in the playoffs, while the Ravens and Steelers will be fighting for the final wildcard spot.

It should be an exciting week of football, not only in the AFC North, but the entire league as there will be two essential division Championship games, where the winner takes the division and the loser is eliminated from playoff contention. The Packers and Bears will play for the NFC North, while the Cowboys and Eagles are playing for the NFC East title.


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Tags: A.J. Green, AFC North, Andy Dalton, Baltimore, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, Joe Flacco, NFL

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