AFC North Week 13 Recap

AFC North Week 13 Recap
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With the way the Steelers offense is rolling, anything they get out of the defense is a bonus.
By the end of Sunday night’s game, the Bengals and Steelers improved their playoff positions and found themselves in three-team bunches, while the Browns and Ravens improved their draft positions to #1 and #5, respectively. Who didn’t improve? The zebras who missed their usually calls to assist in an AFC North outcome, and also hit a new low in this non-AFC North contest. Really, refs?
Baltimore Ravens @ Miami Dolphins
The Ravens managed to lose a game despite giving up just 219 yards total including 82 through the air to the Dolphins. This is a Dolphins team who had been giving up nearly 400 yards and 26 points a week.
More of the usual for the Ravens minus their improved defensive play, however, those shortcomings were easily replaced by a new addition: The Schaub pick-six (his 2nd in as many starts for the Ravens, and an unheard of 6th in his last nine games). Of course there was a missed 50+ yarder from kicker Justin Tucker, who is now 2-8 from that distance this season (another athlete bitten by the marriage jinx?), multiple turnovers, interesting penalties/non-calls, and bad tackles. No, not on defense, but at right and left tackle. The edge play was absolutely horrendous, more than offsetting two of the best guards in the NFL.
A note regarding the blown offensive pass interference call: Who cares about the outcome of the game. The Ravens are a bad team, and the final outcome is always debatable with in-game play-calling adjustments, unless its the last play of the game (although the 7 points would not have hurt). It cost Daniel Brown, an undrafted free agent struggling to showcase his talents, a 52-yard touchdown and his first catch as a pro. He later caught a 17-yarder, but the refs are really getting out of hand throughout the NFL (and college if you watched the ACC Championship game Saturday). Its time to let coaches challenge more plays, and let NFL headquarters make the decisions, similar to the process the NHL has in place.
Next up, the Ravens host Seattle in a game that was flexed from 8:30pm to 1pm because the Ravens stink.
Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh Steelers
This game was competitive for the first 25 minutes, then the Steelers scored two TDs in the final four minutes of the half. The Steelers came out for the second half on a mission, and Indy looked like they decided to save their energy for their next opponent.
A big reason the game was competitive in the first half was due to one man: Jacoby Jones. I’m not sure if he deleted all tape on his play post 2012, but teams keep giving him a shot (despite letting catchable balls drop, fumbles, ill-advised returns from 9-yards deep in the endzone). This game may have been his last hurrah, as he was demoted to 3rd string punt returner. Not sure why he wasn’t cut.
The biggest surprise of the game was how well the Steelers defense performed. Sure they were going up against a depleted Indy offense that lacks talent in many positions, but they had been averaging more than 25 points a game over their last nine, with or without Andrew Luck, and against some top-tier defenses.
The offense did what its been doing post Big Ben’s return. They have averaged just over 10 point a quarter with a balanced attack since the Browns knocked out Landry Jones three games ago. The Steelers now find themselves in a 3-way 7-5 tie for two wild card spots, and are currently the 7th seed, while a 4th team, the Buffalo Bills, are at 6-6 nipping at their heels due to a similar slim tie-breaker advantage.
Next up, the Steelers head to Cincinnati. A win and they still have a flicker of hope for a division title.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns

There isn’t much to say here. The Bengals showed up and the Browns did not. The 37-3 final speaks for itself.
For the Browns, they did stop the Bengals and forced them to punt on their opening drive, but the Bengals never punted again (and not due to turnovers or failed 4th down conversions although they showed some mercy in the game’s final drive and were stopped on 4th down in field goal range).
For the Bengals, while most stats didn’t jump out of the page, the one that may have been the most impressive was that Andy Dalton threw 11 times to his top two receivers for 10 completions, 183 yards, and two TDs. That was basically his day, as he didn’t have to do much more than that. The Bengals are now in a 3-way tie for the top record in the AFC, but currently hold the tiebreaker advantage and are the #1 seed.
Next up for the Bengals is a home game against the streaking Steelers in a game that should have been flexed to Sunday night in place of Ravens/Seahawks. Instead Patriots/Texans was NFLs choice. The only fans happier about the decision than those in Houston and Boston, are located in Cincinnati.
Next up for the Browns is a game that probably wasn’t considered as a flex option: 49ers @ Cleveland.

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