Welcome to the AFC North predictions page!
Each week, one of our AFC North feature writers will list their picks for that week and be forced to explain why they voted as they did. Keep in mind that these picks are for entertainment purposes only, and in no way should be used to influence gambling or illegal activity, unless you’re smart enough to recognize that we know more than you because we publish things.
Sorry for the late submission, but it appears as though work got in the way of our three writers, as crazy as that may sound. Or maybe a zombie ate the final draft this Halloween…
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, November 2, 1:00pm, CBS
Cincinnati is coming of its best game in a month, while the Jags roll into town playing well over the past month (for them, anyway).
What to watch:
Bengals first quarter In their three games prior to last week, the Bengals were outscored 27-0 in the first quarter. Last week they were able to start strong and hold on for a victory. If they are able to get off to a fast start at home, they should be able to sustain momentum and end in victory.
Jaguars turnover ratio Minus the season opener, when Jacksonville loses the turnover battle, they lose the game. In their one victory, they battled the Browns to a 3-3 turnover tie. The suddenly productive running back Denard Robinson should help, as defenses will actually start focusing on the Jags running game, which previously was dreadful.
Bottom line: Cincinnati has too many weapons, especially if AJ Green is back this week. Either way it would impossible to pick against them, especially when they haven’t lost at home since 2012.
Bengals 30, Jaguars 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Cleveland Browns
Sunday, November 2, 1:00pm, FOX
The Browns look to take down another bottom feeder at home. Tampa attempts to show their AFC North victory was not a fluke, and 5 of their 7 games have come down to the last drive.
What to watch:
Hoyer the Destroyer Its up to Brian Hoyer to dictate where this game goes. Tampa doesn’t pressure the QB well, they don’t defend the pass well to say the least (last in the NFL), and they are 23rd against the run. Can you make a bad decision? I doubt it, but in the 2014 NFL anything can happen.
Tampa’s running game? Tampa might be last or next to last in many categories on both offense and defense, but they are a “solid 29th” in running the ball, while the Browns’ weakness is stopping the run. If running back Bobby Rainey plays the revenge-on-the-former team card and beats up on the Browns D, perhaps the Bucs can make it close.
Bottom line: Jacksonville on the road was the Browns toughest matchup in a three week period that ends this Sunday, when they play the worst team of the bunch. The Browns win handily.
Browns 31, Buccaneers 13
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, November 2, 8:30pm, NBC
The Steelers look For their third straight win Sunday night, this time against arch rival Baltimore, who can’t seem to close out games late versus playoff caliber teams.
What to watch:
Brown vs Webb With Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith out for a few weeks, it will be up to Lardarius Webb to return to form as the Ravens shutdown corner, and his focus will undoubtedly be on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Bengals took full advantage of the Ravens DBs not named Webb last week when Smith went down, but you have to assume the Ravens game plan this week will reflect that personnel change. Either way, expect Brown and Ben Roethlisberger to be licking their chops and working to get the right matchups.
Turnovers These games usually hinge on big turnovers early and late in games. The team who’s QB can hold onto the ball when getting hit from the blindside will have a huge advantage. In addition, players looking to get that extra yard on 2nd and 3rd efforts may want to think twice as this is usually when defensive help strips the ball, especially between these two teams.
Bottom line: Many have thrown out “must win” for both the Steelers and Ravens, which seems a bit much for two teams sitting at 5-3 and in the playoffs mix if the season ended today. The problem for both is tiebreakers. A Steelers loss would put them at 1-3 in the division with two games remaining against the first place Bengals. A Ravens loss wouldn’t hurt them as much in the division standings, but would leave them at 2-4 in-conference, and there are currently 8 teams in the AFC battling it out for playoff seeds five and six.The Steelers at home playing their division rival won’t be a let-down game, but it will be close as usual (last six games between these teams at Heinz have been within three points).
Steelers 23, Ravens 20
|Ravenous128||Jaguars @ Bengals||Bengals, 31-16|
|Buccaneers @ Browns||Browns, 27-13|
|Ravens @ Steelers||Steelers, 24-21|
|Peatwo (17-7)||Jaguars @ Bengals||Bengals, 30-20|
|Buccaneers @ Browns||Browns, 31-13|
|Ravens @ Steelers||Steelers, 23-20|
|DOOOMMEEEEDD||Jaguars @ Bengals||Bengals, 27-16|
|Buccaneers @ Browns||Browns, 24-13|
|Ravens @ Steelers||Steelers, 24-20|