By Jeremy Hritz
Are the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the Wild Card conversation?
At 4-6, knotted up with the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns, the answer is yes, and with four divisional games remaining before the end of the 2013 season, the opportunities are plenty to claim a Wild Card spot. Unfortunately, there is little room for error and at most, the Steelers can only afford to drop one more game.
If the Steelers lose two more, they would finish 8-8 and such a record would probably not be good enough to sneak in. On the other hand, if the Steelers win out at 10-6, could that potentially put them in the conversation for the division title should the Cincinnati Bengals slide?
Speaking of the Bengals, the inconsistency and sloppiness of Andy Dalton continued last weekend against the Browns as he failed to throw for over 100 yards. While he did throw three touchdowns, he also tossed two more interceptions, both to Joe Haden, including one returned for a touchdown (look out this week Ben). It didn’t matter however, as the Bengals erupted for 31 points in the second quarter which all but sealed Cleveland’s fate.
In that second quarter, the Bengals benefited from two touchdown passes, a blocked punt returned for a TD, a fumble returned for a TD, in addition to a field goal. Ultimately, Cleveland’s four turnovers, including three interceptions from Jason Campbell, were too much to overcome, and it was a rather easy 41-20 win for the Bengals despite a rough start.
After the game, head coach Marvin Lewis saw the comeback blowout against the Browns as an important game but said that his team has their eyes looking forward to their remaining opponents and that despite the win against the Browns, “[they] have bigger fish to fry.”
Somewhat of an arrogant comment, no?
Again, there are elements of this Bengals team that make them a legitimate contender in the AFC playoffs, and sure, Dalton rebounded nicely after a poor start against the Browns, but has this team shown enough consistency to convince anyone that they have what it takes to advance? At this juncture, the answer is no, yet regardless, their record has put them in control of their own fate, and unless they experience a late season collapse, they will be hosting at least one playoff game.
Cleveland, while they have the 4th overall defense in the NFL, do not have the offensive parts to be serious contender this season, and that was on display in their breakdown against the Bengals. As long as Campbell is at quarterback, the Browns will have to rely on its defense to make plays to put them in a position to win games, as Campbell has not proven in his career that he can carry a team. The Browns are not a bad team, and they will win a few more games before the season is over, but they will have to overcome offensive ineptitude to do so.
The Ravens lost another close game in overtime in Chicago against the Bears who were playing without Jay Cutler. The Ravens were finally able to get their running game firing, grinding up 174 total rushing yards, including 131 from Ray Rice on an extra-muddy Soldier Field. In the end, however, it wasn’t enough, as the Bears Robbie Gould hit a 38-yard field goal in OT to give the Ravens their sixth loss of the season. Joe Flacco continued his dismal play this season as he threw two more interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown in addition to being sacked three times.
Despite the loss, the Ravens are still very much in play for a Wild Card berth, but they must not look past the Jets today to their matchup against the Steelers on Thanksgiving Night, which promises to be one of the most important games in the AFC North this year.
|2013 AFC North Standings||Week 12 Schedule||Week 13 Schedule|
|Bengals: 7-4, 1-2 Division||Bye Week: BengalsSteelers @ Browns, 1:00 PM||Bengals @ Chargers, 4:25 PM|
|Steelers: 4-6, 1-1 Division||Steelers @ Browns, 1:00 PM||Steelers @ Ravens, 8:30 PM Thanksgiving Night|
|Ravens: 4-6, 2-2 Division||Jets @ Ravens, 1:00 PM||Steelers @ Ravens, 8:30 PM Thanksgiving Night|
|Browns: 4-6, 2-2 Division||Steelers @ Browns, 1:00 PM||Jaguars @ Browns, 1:00 PM|
|AFC North Statistical Leaders|
|Leading Passer (yardage)||Andy Dalton, Bengals – 252/410, 2954 yards, 21 touchdowns, 15 interceptions (6th in the NFL)|
|Leading Rusher (yardage)||BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals – 156 carries, 522 yards, 3 touchdowns (20th in the NFL)|
|Leading Receiver (yardage)||AJ Green, Lions – 67 catches, 1020 yards, 6 touchdown (2nd in the NFL)|
|Sack Leader||Terrell Suggs, Ravens – 9 sacks (Tied for 7th in the NFL)|
|Interception Leader||Joe Haden, Browns – 3 interceptions (Tied for 12th in the NFL)|
|Top Offense||Cincinnati Bengals – 364.5 yards per game (10th in the NFL)|
|Top Defense||Cleveland Browns – 306.5 yards per game (4th in the NFL)|
|2013 Remaining AFC North Schedules|
|@ Browns||Vs. Jets||Vs. Steelers||BYE|
|@ Ravens||Vs. Steelers||Vs. Jaguars||@ Chargers|
|Vs. Dolphins||Vs. Vikings||@ Patriots||Vs. Colts|
|Vs. Bengals||@ Lions||Vs. Bears||@ Steelers|
|@ Packers||Vs. Patriots||@ Jets||Vs. Vikings|
|Vs. Browns||@ Bengals||@ Steelers||Vs. Ravens|