The Cleveland Browns were four quarters and a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals away from having control of their playoff fate. That, of course, did not occur. While the Bengals are, minus a complete and unforeseeable meltdown, the uncrowned AFC North champions, the Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens all sit at 4-6. It's not completely bad news for the rest of the division, as each of those teams remain but a single game out in the Wild Card race.
Yes, the AFC really is that bad.
2013 Week 12 NFL power rankings: AFC North
24. Baltimore Ravens (4-6): You do have to feel at least a little bad for the Ravens in that they were up 10-0 when a monstrous storm hit the Chicago region and caused Baltimore's game against the Bears to be delayed for roughly two hours. With that said, last year's Ravens team would have still managed to win that contest by double digits.
Baltimore can take one positive from that game. Running back Ray Rice had his best outing of the season at Chicago, rushing for a season-high 131 yards. He also found the end zone for only the fourth time in the current campaign.
Rice getting hot in the final month and a half of the season wouldn't just mean good times for the Baltimore rushing attack. It would also lighten the load on quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco has hardly had a banner year, and he could certainly use the good fortune.
22. Cleveland Browns (4-6): The city was hyped for what was a massive showdown that could have changed the balance of power in the AFC North. Head coach Rob Chudzinski was impressing analysts and fans with his aggressive on-the-field decisions. People were buying into the Browns.
Then Cleveland had to go and Cleveland it up.
The Browns still have a stellar defense, one that I, regardless of what happened last weekend, believe is the division's best. Limiting mistakes, such as blocked punts and also interceptions/fumbles inside their own 20-yard line, is what they'll have to concentrate on as they prepare to host the Steelers. Cleveland's playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.
A loss on Sunday would end those hopes.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6): There are two different ways to look at the Steelers heading into the final Sunday of the month: That Pittsburgh is coming around, and that Ben Roethlisberger is playing his best football of the season. If any team in the AFC North is going to make a run as the cold weather sets in, why not the Steelers?
Then there's the idea that the Steelers beat a lousy Buffalo team, and that they were then given a gift by the Detroit Lions last weekend.
The Steelers have road games at the Browns and then at the Ravens. Wins in those games will prove to me that a Pittsburgh revival is on. Let's see it.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4): First thing: The Bengals should, at three games up in the division standings with five contests left on their schedule, close out the season as champions of the AFC North. That's an achievement, and Cincy deserves credit for it. Well done.
All of that out of the way, I cannot believe that I'm the only person still not sold on Cincinnati. Andy Dalton has been far too inconsistent as of late, and the Bengals looked to be well on their way to a blowout loss at home to the Browns until Cleveland gifted Cincy no fewer than 21 points.
Being the best of the AFC North only means so much this time around. The Bengals have work to do to show that they can hang with the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and even the Kansas City Chiefs in a postseason tournament. I'm not a believer, Cincinnati.
Prove me wrong.
More: Week 12 NFL power rankings