AFC North

AFC North Week 17 Recap

Finding ways to lose: The Browns fumble away another game (this time literally) in a season that could have just as easily ended 6-10.
AFC North Week 17 Recap
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If week 16 basically marked the end of the regular season for the AFC North, week 17 gave an indication of each team’s mental state going into the playoffs and off-season. Three of four teams went out fighting , while the Ravens were already on vacation (at least many of the high priced players looked like no-shows).
 
 
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
 
Despite missing key players on offense and defense, the Bengals won the line battle on both sides of the ball leading to an easy victory. This game was barely in doubt, highlighted by another Joe Flacco unconscionable interception, this time on 1st and goal with less than three minutes left in the first half. A potential 17-10 deficit turned into a Bengals 20-3 halftime lead.
 
The Ravens defense was no better. After the Bengals smartly deferred and allowed the Ravens to receive the opening kickoff (and watched two Flacco incompletions and a sack), they marched down the field on a series of runs (Buckhead 4 rushes, 27 yards, TD) and short passes. The Bengals offensive line, combined with an unmotivated Suggs and Brandon Williams seemingly playing not to get hurt before his big payday during the offseason, blew the Ravens off the ball in the first half. The result: Four Bengals drives totaling 270 yards, with the shortest non-TD drive going 74 yards (and may have been a TD if not for extremely poor Bengals clock management at the end of the half, letting 1:22 come off the clock on three plays without seeing a 3rd down). The Ravens were lucky to only give up 20 points.
 
In the second half, the Ravens defense actually played defense forcing five Bengals punts, but Joe Flacco and the offense did little with their dink, dunk, and squander approach. The two offenses combined to create a painful half to watch.
 
Next up, the Bengals pick 9th in the 2017 draft, only losing one spot by beating the Ravens this week. The Ravens pick 16th, gaining two spots from last week, and three if they had won this game.
 
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
 
The Browns needed a late Steelers touchdown in overtime to overcome a depleted Steelers lineup and their own overtime field goal to secure the number one pick in the draft.
 
The Steelers essentially played their second string and showed the heart of players in the preseason looking to make a roster. The Browns likewise showed the heart of players who know they could be replaced in the near future. The result was a compelling game to watch despite the only outcome in question being the Browns draft position.
 
The game began as if it would be a one-sided affair with the Browns starters overwhelming the inexperienced Steelers on both offense and defense. The Browns were well on their way to a 17 or 21-0 lead, when the wheels fell off the offense resulting in two straight turnovers. Result: Just a 14-7 Browns first half lead with momentum and hope on the Steelers side. The momentum was short lived as the teams punted on four straight 2nd half series before the turnover excitement set in. The Browns had a pick-6 and were up 21-7 before they weren’t (ball punched out what seemed like the 1-inch line with the knee 1 inch from being down for a touchback to the Steelers). The Steelers tied the game against a Browns defense who, in succession, were on the field for the initial 5-play 22-yard drive, the 22-yard pass that was intercepted, the 68-yard return, and the subsequent 80-yard TD drive that ensued. Result: 15 plays, 192 yards covered, game tied 14-14, and an exhausted Browns defense.
 
The Browns offense did what they could to help their defense recover. They went on an 11-play nearly 6-minute drive that resulted in… a missed field goal. Despite their effort, the Steelers marched down the field to go up by a TD anyway. The Browns returned the favor, and were about to win the game until… a Browns fumble on the Steelers 3-yard line with :56 seconds in the game that may have jogged a few memories of games past. The rest is history.
 
Next up, the Bengals pick 9th in the 2017 draft, only losing one spot by beating the Ravens this week. The Ravens pick 16th, gaining two spots from last week, and three if they had won this game.
 
Next up, the Steelers face the underwhelming Dolphins in the wildcard round, Sunday 1:05pm with I assume Phil Seems doing the commentary. The Browns are on the clock.

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