Speaking of which…

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    After Week 12, the AFC North looks much the same.

    The Ravens held onto their three-game advantage; the Steelers squeaked out a win against the formerly-hapless, now-abysmal Bengals; and the Browns “did what they were supposed to do” against the woeful Dolphins.  Few NFL game slates have been easier to predict this season.  With that said, next week should provide plenty of entertainment with the Ravens squaring off at home against the 11-1, NFC-leading 49ers, and the Browns and Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh to settle lingering controversies, at least for this season.  Speaking of which…

    With one game separating them in the standings, the Browns/Steelers matchup has taken on added significance.  Despite the insults, threats and accusations of misconduct and racism stemming from Week 10’s ugliness, both teams remain in solid position to secure a playoff spot, but it will require beating the other team to get there.  Should the Browns win, they’ll firmly hold the playoff tiebreaker over their offensively-challenged rivals.  If the Steelers pull it out, they’ll hold a two-game advantage over the Browns, which would effectively ruin Cleveland’s playoff possibilities.  Add in the general ill will both teams harbor for each other, and this game should project a genuine playoff atmosphere.  Speaking of which…

    The 49ers/Ravens game will be hailed by many as a “possible Super Bowl preview”, which, while debatable, should only increase the hype surrounding both teams.  After last night’s demolition of the talented-but-inconsistent Rams by the Ravens and wunderkind quarterback Lamar Jackson, there’s little question the 49ers face a deep challenge.  The 49ers have been winning primarily on defense, which should serve them well as they travel east, but their limitations may come against a suddenly-excellent Ravens secondary.  Speaking of which…

    The Ravens will have to make a few decisions this offseason regarding their cornerbacks, as pending free agent Jimmy Smith will probably be seeking his last workable payday, and fellow free agent/midseason pickup Marcus Peters will command a lot of money as arguably the top corner available in 2020.  With slot corner Tavon Young expected to return, the Ravens can’t keep both Smith and Peters, and longtime CB rotation partner Brandon Carr is a likely candidate to be cut as well.  My guess:  Smith returns at a substantially reduced rate, and Peters moves on.  Speaking of which…

    The Steelers have seemingly moved on from quarterback Mason Rudolph, whose recent stretch of poor play earned him a halftime benching against the Bengals.  It remains to be seen how fill-in QB Devlin “Duck” Hodges will perform, but it’s entirely possible Rudolph’s last interception may be his last action of the season.  With the team tenuously holding onto a wild card berth, the Steelers can’t afford many offensive slip-ups and must continue to play solid defense to retain it, and Hodges, with his low-key demeanor and adequate skill set, seems to be in a better position to deliver than Rudolph at this point.  Speaking of which…

    The 0-11 Bengals are turning to deposed starting QB Andy Dalton in the hopes of eking out a single victory this season.  While the decision to start rookie QB Ryan Finley was puzzling, the return to Dalton in a lost season is doubly odd.  In an obviously disastrous year, the Bengals have long since sabotaged their own chances for trading for draft picks or salary dumps (not that notoriously-cheap owner Mike Brown needs to do so), so why would anyone, fans or otherwise, care whether they win anything now?  Dalton is a professional and has been outwardly supportive of Finley since this debacle began; my guess is he will quietly play out the season and hope to rack up enough solid numbers to look more attractive on the free agent market, should the Bengals cut him – a distinct possibility, given that his dead money hit on the team’s salary cap in 2020 is zero, and he’s slated to make $17,700 should they retain him.

     

    Enjoy the week!

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    Ravenous128

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