Photo Credit: Sporting News
As we enter the last week of the regular season, many divisions are still up for grabs including the AFC North. While only the Steelers and Ravens have a shot at winning the division and making the playoffs, all four teams will be facing a divisional foe so look for the Browns and Bengals to play spoilers as their seasons will come to an end at the conclusion of Sunday’s games. Heading into the matchups, it seems that the Ravens have the inside track at winning the division needing only a win against the Browns to assure a playoff birth. The Steelers on the other hands need a bit more help. They would have to win against the Bengals and need the Browns to pull the upset against the Ravens in Baltimore in order to keep Pittsburgh’s season alive. Here’s a look at how I think it will all play out.
Cleveland(+6) at Baltimore, 4:25 ET
In a matchup that features the two AFC North teams that have the brightest future ahead, I think we see the same result we have seen in past years, a Ravens win. While I do think a 6 point spread is too much for the Baltimore, Lamar Jackson’s playmaking ability will be too much for a Cleveland defense that will be without their best cornerback Denzel Ward for the second time in three weeks. The Ravens rank 2nd in the NFL in rushing offense while the Browns rush defense is in the bottom third in the league, so look for a heavy dose of running plays to get them out on top early and control the game moving forward. However, with a Browns offense that seems to be hitting on all cylinders don’t expect this game to be a blowout or even a cover by Baltimore. With Freddie Kitchens knowing this will be the final chance to win the offensive coordinator position, look for Kitchens to go all out with Baker Mayfield and the offense. Overall I think this will be a hard fought game as both teams are fighting to finish their remarkable years on a high note, but in the end, Lamar Jackson’s dual-threat ability will be too much for the Browns defense.
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Cleveland 23
Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati(+14.5) at Pittsburgh, 4:25 ET
This one seems easy to predict. The Steelers know they need to win and get help from the Browns so look for Pittsburgh to come out swinging and wrap this one up by the third quarter. Even with the availability of Antonio Brown coming into question as the week progressed, the Steelers offense just has too many weapons going against a Bengals defense that ranks close to last in nearly every statistical category. The Bengals offense will be without their top remaining receiver Tyler Boyd, leaving them with running back Joe Mixon and streaky receiver John Ross. Overall, the Bengals have seemed to pack their season in over the past weeks and the Steelers will just be too much for a weak defense missing Vontaze Burfict.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Cincinnati 16
Conclusion: Both teams win resulting in the Ravens winning the AFC North and advancing to the playoffs.