Stop the presses! The Steelers beat a non-divisional foe, the first time a team from the AFC North has accomplished this since October 9th (Steelers as well). We are still waiting for the rest of the division to step up and do their part to stop this embarrassing trend. Just a reminder, the last win outside of the division for each team is:
Bengals: September 29th
Ravens: September 25th
Browns: December 13th, 2015
That said, now TWO teams are above .500 and share the division lead (tiebreakers withstanding), and both are favored to hit the 7-win mark in week 13… although that would mean two wins outside of the division, something that hasn’t happened since week four.
In other week 12 games, the Ravens kept pace with the Steelers and again technically sit in the top spot, while the Bengals playoff hopes have all but vanished. The Browns once again put up a fight versus the Giants, but they just don’t have the horses or stamina to play a full 60-minutes.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Indianapolis
The Steelers started quickly, leveraged three TDs from Big Ben to Antonio Brown, and had very little resistance from Indy, a team that has been made up of Andrew Luck and little else for his first four painful years. Without Luck, Indy could barely put up a fight.
Although the team from Indy was shorthanded as their star QB sat this one out with a concussion, my guess is the game would have been closer, but the result would likely have been the same. The Steelers combination of Brown and Bell wouldn’t have been stopped regardless of quarterback, and one could argue they would have been more productive if the Indy offense made them nervous. However, the Steelers defense was able to stack the box with no threat from the passing game, allowing them to limit both the rush and pass with little adjustment necessary. Long story short, the Steelers made short work of Indy by going out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and were never threatened.
Next up, the Steelers invite the overrated NY Giants to Heinz, winners of six in a row, five in extremely close contests, with their last five opponents coming in at a dismal 12-42-1. The Giants lost their last three prior to their current streak.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens
This barnburner (and by barnburner I mean a Ravens and Bengals offenses lulled onlookers to sleep), began with a Ravens quick score, then sputter after the first quarter with numerous bailouts by the best kicker in the league and statically the best defense in the AFC (yards and scoring). The game ended with the Ravens once again deploying the hold-and-pray clock-running safety in punt formation.
Its a broken record with Joe Flacco since the Super Bowl win. His game again consisted of a few good plays wrapped around a ball of WR/QB communication issues, throws off the back foot, missed opportunities, and failing to get a single first down when needed in the 4th quarter to put the game away.
Luckily for the Ravens, they were playing the regressing Andy Dalton and the AJ Green-less Bengals who looked lost and disorganized at times. The Ravens were also lucky they locked up Justin Tucker for four years, and needed every kick. After hitting from 52, 57, 54, and 36, he is now 27-27 this year including seven from 50+. Since the NFL gave kickers the challenge of a 32 yard extra point in 2015, he has hit all 44 attempts at a time when his counterparts have missed extra points in record numbers. Speaking of special teams, Sam Koch also played a huge role with a 63 yard field flipping punt in the 4th deep in Ravens territory.
Next up, the Ravens host the Dolphins who, like NY, have also won six straight, one against team with a winning record, and the last four 1-score games versus teams with a combined record of 13-31.
The Bengals host the Eagles and all the baggage their fans bring with them.
New York Giants @ Cleveland Browns
The Giants used a familiar formula of Beckham and Pierre-Paul to take down the outmanned Browns in this tear-jerking loss.
To the Browns credit, they held the Giants in check for most of the day, limiting their top three receivers to just eight catches on 20 targets. Unfortunately Beckham caught them when it counted, and five of the Giants 15 completions were significant plays including three TDs between 13 and 41 yards.
The Browns on offense was again one-dimensional with little running game although to their credit they tried to stick with it this time. The lack of balance finally hit them in the 4th when JPP nine-fingered a fumble recovery for a TD.
Next up, the Browns finally get a week off, and will likely spend it preparing and hoping for their first win against the reeling Bengals in two weeks.