AFC North Week 15 Preview

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Welcome back and all that.  Each week, I’ll post a quick writeup of pending AFC North games, with a few notable points and, yes, timely, knowledgeable predictions regarding the games’ outcomes.

As usual, these picks are for fun and should in no way be used for actual wagering purposes. That is, unless you want to make a ton of money in a legal forum, because we know more stuff and things about football than you do or something.


Jacksonville Jaguars @ Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, December 20, 1:00 pm, CBS

The 1-12 Jaguars welcome back QB Gardner Minshew for this game, which gives them a glimmer of hope against the desperate, win-at-all-costs Ravens in Baltimore, but let’s be realistic – given that desperation, the Ravens are unlikely to fold against the NFL’s stragglers at this point.  After last week’s explosion of points by the offense (and possible explosion of a different sort), Ravens QB Lamar Jackson appears set on doing anything he can to will his team to the playoffs, and there’s little the gutted Jaguars defense will be able to do about it.

Cliché as it’s become, expect the Ravens to run the ball.  A lot.  They may sprinkle in a few dumpoffs and slants to TE Mark Andrews and assorted RBs, but the Ravens seem to have come to the realization running the ball is what they do best, so why change that?  The Jaguars have yet to win a road game this season; this week won’t be any different, despite the fact the Ravens’ defense has done little to stop anyone for consecutive weeks.

Cincy_Brownsfan:  Jaguars 10, Ravens 24
Me:  Jaguars 10, Ravens 31


Cleveland Browns @ New York Giants
Sunday, December 20, 8:20 pm, NBC

The Browns roll into New Jersey rather pissed off, I would imagine.  After last Monday’s nail-biting finish left the Browns a game worse in the standings and holders of a defense that surrendered 45 points to the Ravens, it’s tough to envision them having positive thoughts.  The defense needs a break, and although the Giants aren’t quite a pushover, they reside in the bottom third of the NFL in most categories and offer little threat to the Browns should the Browns’ maligned defense feel like playing a bit better.

Like the Ravens, the Browns will run the ball often, usually by way of bruiser RB Nick Chubb and change-of-pace RB Kareem Hunt, whose late catch and run against Baltimore kept the Browns in contention until the final seconds.  The Browns will pass, of course; they should have TE Austin Hooper back from injury and WR Jarvis Landry has been a solid possession option for QB Baker Mayfield all season.  Given Giants QB Daniel Jones’ propensity for turnovers, the defense might actually chip in a little.

Cincy_Brownsfan: Browns 36, Giants 14
Me:  Browns 34, Giants 20


Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Monday, December 21, 8:15 pm, ESPN

Hard to imagine an 11-2 team is floundering, but per most media reports, the Steelers are, having dropped their last two games in somewhat embarrassing fashion.  The depleted Bengals offer a chance for Pittsburgh to rebound, clinch a division title, and re-establish their momentum for the remainder of the regular season.  The Steelers really can’t afford a loss here; any slippage opens the door for the Browns to possibly overtake them week 17, when the two will meet in an assuredly bloody contest, especially if the AFC North title and possible playoff bye week are at stake.

The Steelers will pass early, often, and just about all game long, as RB James Conner has again been ruled out due to injury, and the remaining stable of RBs seems better suited for third-down roles.  Given their recent and heavily-scrutinized propensity for drops, the Steelers WR corp has some atoning to do, particularly second-year WR Diontae Johnson, who’s emerged as QB Ben Roethlisberger’s most-preferred and probably most maddening target.  Regardless, the offense won’t have to do much – given their vast injuries, there’s little the Bengals can do to generate points.  This could get ugly.

Cincy_Brownsfan:  Steelers 2, Bengals 0
Me:  Steelers 35, Bengals 7



See y’all there.



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