AFC North

AFC North

Speaking of which…

Speaking of which…
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Nothing’s easy anymore.  Especially in the NFL.

 

If this is what “parity” means and it’s what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell envisioned, I suppose it’s working.  With one week remaining in the 2018 regular season, 18 of the NFL’s 32 teams are have posted at least seven wins, and while a number of them will clearly remain at that win total, the fact that it’s this close at this point is remarkable.  The supposedly dominant teams have been felled by lesser competition regularly.  The teams sporting the best records in the AFC reside in the same division (AFC West).  Every year, it seems as though the gap between the NFL’s elite and its basement dwellers gets noticeably thinner.  Speaking of which…

 

The Steelers, front-runners in the AFC North for most of the season, watched their AFC North first-place ranking disappear in the closing minutes of a hard-fought loss in New Orleans due to wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster’s effort-driven fumble.  While there’s certainly no shame in ever losing to the Saints in the Superdome, this loss – coming on the heels of a dreadful 1-3 stretch – may well have knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs, pending the result of this weekend’s slate of games.  Naturally, there’s no shortage of blame to go around, but Smith-Schuster is saying the right things in accepting it anyway.  Speaking of which…

 

Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield is making no apologies for his staredown of former Browns coach and current Bengals assistant Hue Jackson during last weeks’ Bengals/Browns matchup.  One wonders what Jackson did (beyond lousy coaching) to forever earn Mayfield’s wrath.  While it’s been fun to watch Mayfield’s rise after Jackson’s ouster, shouldn’t that be solace enough for Mayfield, who was spared the ignominy of last year’s 0-16 season under Jackson?  It seems as though the remaining Browns players from that team would have a much bigger beef with Jackson than Mayfield, whose experience with Jackson consisted of one training camp and eight games.  In short, grow up, kid…although some players never do.  Speaking of which…

 

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s season and career may be over due to multiple concussions.  As the link notes, the troubled Burfict hasn’t played more than 11 games in any season since 2013, appearing in just seven this year.  Burfict remains a tough case to assess, as his negative pre-draft reviews indicated emotional and focus issues, both of which have been evident in his career.  While few question his on-field talent, his tendency towards bizarre and arguably dirty play makes one wonder if perhaps Burfict’s possible removal from football for any reason may be a positive thing.  Regardless, the Bengals would’ve liked to have had him suited up for their finale at the Steelers.  Speaking of which…

 

The Ravens won’t be watching the Bengals and Steelers, knowing full well they control their own destiny in attempting to clinch their first AFC North title in six years.  The Ravens certainly remember being in a similar position last season, where they saw their playoff hopes ruined on a blown 4th and 12 coverage to Bengals wideout Tyler Boyd.  There’s no lack of intrigue in this game, although predictions have varied greatly with, unsurprisingly, local pundits pulling for their own.   Given the intensity and violence of most AFC North matchups, this one promises to be no different.

 

Enjoy the week!

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