AFC North Stumbles
Going into this weekend, the Bengals had won 4 in a row, the Steelers were ready to bring back Roethlisberger at the helm, and the Ravens were 2 wins away from claiming at least a share of the division. Yet nobody in the pack could come away with a much-needed victory.
The Bengals started the day off strong, and led the Cowboys on the scoreboard from midway in the first quarter all the way until Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal. While the Bengals offense did a decent job moving the ball all day, the Cowboys came up with some key stops and it prevented the Bengals from ever pulling away. Dalton was sacked 5 times and threw a pick on top of that. The Bengals now sit at 7-6.
The Steelers, on the other hand, saw themselves trailing just about the entire game. Despite throwing for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns, it was a rough return for Roethlisberger. When the Steelers were trying to keep things interesting in the middle of the second, a Roethlisberger fumble was gathered in the endzone by the Chargers to make the game 27-3, a hole the Steelers couldn’t climb out of despite a late-game push. Pittsburgh drops to 7-6.
Golden opportunity for the Ravens then, right? The only team not favored going into the day, Baltimore had a really intriguing matchup against Robert Griffin and the streaking Redskins. A strong second quarter gave the Ravens a 21-14 lead going into the half, and for most of the next 30 minutes, the Ravens did what they needed to keep Washington under control. Then a last minute drive that was capped by backup quarterback Kirk Cousins forced the game into overtime, where a 64-yard punt return by Richard Crawford and a 34-yard field goal by Kai Forbath put things away. Ravens fall to 9-4.
Looking ahead, the Ravens need to win two of their final three games to clinch an outright division title, but a victory may not come easy. After playing host to the Broncos and Giants, the Ravens travel to Cincinnati in week 17 to play the Bengals in a game that could have huge playoff implications.
Next week, the Steelers have the Cowboys and the Bengals have the Eagles. And right after that, they go head to head in a game that will most likely determine playoff eligibility. At this rate, 9-7 may suffice for the second wild card spot, but the Colts are 9-4 with a matchup against the Chiefs still to come, so it’ll probably come down to someone in the AFC North. Make sure to stay tuned.