AFC North Week 11 Wrapup

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Gotta love Division Weeks.

They tend to create more…division…among NFL playoff hopefuls, and they often define the essence of teams – who knows each other’s tendencies better than an overanalyzed rival you face a minimum of twice per year?

Last week’s AFC North familiar tilts were certainly interesting, if not very entertaining at times.  There’s certainly never a shortage of drama.

And here it is.


Bengals 20, Ravens 34

The Bengals and their fans no longer need to live in denial – QB Joe Burrow is officially injured and doesn’t need to skirt any league-mandated injury reporting requirements anymore.

Bengals fans were treated to this revelation in the second quarter of an eventual Ravens blowout, after Burrow completed a TD pass to RB Joe Mixon and immediately doubled over in obvious pain, clutching his right wrist.  Subsequent views showed Burrow was unable to grip the football; a locker room assessment later, Burrow was ruled out for the rest of the game, and two days later, the season, leaving backup QB Jake Browning in the untenable position of trying to rally his team to a win in a hostile environment and with several key offensive contributors missing.  To his credit, Browning produced two scoring drives, including a late TD pass to WR Ja’Marr Chase – one of just two catches on the afternoon for the normally productive receiver.

The Cincinnati defense has had better showings.  After getting an initial push against a Ravens offensive line missing two starters, the Bengals and key pass rusher Trey Hendrickson (2 tackles, 1 sack) all but disappeared, getting occasional pressure on Ravens QB Lamar Jackson but failing to corral him on scrambles and dumpoffs.  Rookie S Jordan Battle led the team with 12 tackles, with LB Logan Wilson adding 9, including a couple of controversial takedowns that resulted in Ravens injuries.  CB Mike Hilton had 5 tackles and a sack.

Despite their suspect offensive line, the Ravens initially appeared rested and ready on their opening drive, at least until TE Mark Andrews suffered a severe knee sprain on his second catch (Andrews underwent surgery Tuesday and is not expected to play again this season, although a return in the playoffs remains a remote possibility).  RB Gus Edwards (12 carries, 62 yards, 2 TDs) plodded and bulled his way into the end zone twice, and Jackson managed to find WRs Nelson Agholor and Rashod Bateman for TDs – the only catch of the day for both WRs.

Defensively, the Ravens obviously took control once Burrow exited the field, but Burrow hadn’t had the best of days prior to his injury, absorbing several hits from several Ravens, most notably from DE Jadeveon Clowney, who was rumored to have supplied the hit that injured Burrow, and was a force most of the afternoon, creating extensive pressure in the backfield.  LBs Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith each posted double-digit tackles for the day, and the team collectively totaled 5 sacks, including one from resurgent LB Odafe Oweh, who appears to finally be “figuring it out” in his fourth season.


Steelers 10, Browns 13

The Browns were again forced to start rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson at QB due to an injury to starter Deshaun Watson, but at least they had a little notice this time.  “DTR”, as he’s termed locally, didn’t light up the scoreboard in traditional fashion, but he did manage perfection on the game’s final drive, when it mattered most (4-4 for 39 yards, easily setting up K Dustin Hopkins’ 34-yard game-winning FG).  There was scant offense produced by the Browns otherwise, as their rushing attack was largely shut down outside of a hard-fought TD from RB Kareem Hunt.  The receiving corp struggled throughout, with WR Elijah Moore leading the team with 6 catches for 60 yards.

The Browns’ heralded defense didn’t disappoint, holding beleaguered Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett to just 106 yards passing.  DE Myles Garrett set the tone early by sacking Pickett on his first play from scrimmage, and it didn’t get much easier for the Steelers, who again struggled to protect Pickett.  The Browns produced nine tackles for loss, remarkable considering they didn’t do much to stop the Steelers’ rushing attack (more below).  While the team failed to garner any turnovers, they also held the Steelers to a lone rushing TD.  S Grant Delpit and LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah each added 7 tackles.

As noted, Pickett struggled from the outset against not only the Browns, but also against a peculiar offensive game plan that abandoned the run when it was plainly evident it was the only aspect of the offense that was working.  RB Jaylen Warren made the most of his 9 carries, grinding out 129 yards and the Steelers’ only TD; no other ball carrier had more than 36 yards.  The receiving corp was led by WR George Pickens, with 4 catches for 38 yards.  The other offensive stats are just too ugly to bother posting, and that’s not an exaggeration.  That this game is what finally deposed Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Matt Canada shouldn’t be a surprise – this was arguably the Steelers’ worst offensive showing all year, and possibly of the entire Canada era.

The Steelers again stayed in the game on the strength of their defense, which produced only one sack from star LB T.J. Watt but shut down the rushing attack thoroughly, as LB Elandon Roberts led all defensive players with 15 tackles.  CB Chandon Sullivan picked off Thompson-Robinson once, and the team recorded 4 QB hits among several hurries, as “DTR” was forced to scramble out of the pocket on multiple occasions.


Happy Thanksgiving, folks.  Hope these non-AFC North Thanksgiving games don’t bore you too much.

See y’all next week.



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