AFC North

AFC North

Speaking of which…

Speaking of which…
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The 2018 NFL playoff waters, such as they are, have been officially muddied.

 

(rereads last sentence; shrugs)

 

We’re entering that time of year, where almost every team is “in the hunt” or “on the playoff bubble” (exempt: Raiders, Cardinals, 49ers – you guys can just go home).  In the AFC North, we’re witnessing something novel – all four teams are still mathematically alive for a playoff berth with only five games remaining.  The Browns, lately the weak link in these scenarios, have kept afloat, while the Bengals have taken a marked turn for the worst.  I’ll eschew the research, but it’s fair to say that this level of competition hasn’t appeared in the AFC North for some time…if ever.  Speaking of which…

 

In 2014, the Browns posted a 7-9 record and haven’t won more than three games in any season since.  Given their marked improvement on the field but relative youth and inexperience, the Browns aren’t realistically figuring on a playoff spot this season, but 2019 looks to hold real postseason possibilities…barring injury, of course.  Speaking of which…

 

The floundering Bengals just lost starting quarterback Andy Dalton for the season, courtesy of a thumb injury.  The timing couldn’t be worse, as they’re still technically in the race for a playoff spot, but one wonders whether it makes any difference.  Cincinnati has been horrible lately, having lost five of their last six games, including two by a +35 margin.  There’s just no love in the Queen City for the Bengals anymore; not without significant offseason changes.  And let’s just say that the presence of former Browns coach Hue Jackson most likely isn’t helping.  Speaking of which…

 

The speculation surrounding the eventual job status of Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh has abated somewhat after the team managed two wins while starting rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.  Look for it to increase after this week, as Jackson is expected to make a third start against the run-challenged Falcons this Sunday.  If Jackson manages to pull out a third straight win, Harbaugh will have to make a choice that will most likely decide his, Jackson’s, and incumbent QB Joe Flacco’s future.  Speaking of which…

 

The Steelers have had myriad defensive issues over the last few years, but few argue the team must improve their secondary if they truly want to dominate going forward.  Struggling former first-round cornerback Artie Burns appears to be a prime candidate to move on, as the team can’t afford to wait on his lagging development while potentially squandering the last few years of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s career.

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