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AFC North Recap: Ravens, Browns and Bengals Surge to Wins

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While the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the lowly New England Patriots on Thursday night, the AFC North was a perfect 3-0 on Sunday. The Cincinnati Bengals routed the Indianapolis Colts, 34-14, the Cleveland Browns edged out the Jacksonville Jaguars, 31-27, and the Baltimore Ravens won a shootout in overtime against the Los Angeles Rams, 37-31. Three of the four teams in the AFC North currently occupy a playoff spot. The Ravens (10-3) currently hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while the Browns (8-5) are the fifth seed and the Steelers (7-6) are the sixth seed. The Bengals (7-6) are out of the playoff picture at slotted at No. 10. A total of six teams in the AFC are 7-6.

Quarterback Jake Browning continues to turn heads in Cincinnati. On the heels of a remarkable Monday night performance in a win over the Jaguars, Browning completed 18 of 24 passes (75.0%) for 275 yards with two touchdowns, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 122.7 in the win over Indianapolis. He also rushed for a 1-yard touchdown.

With Joe Burrow out for the season because of a wrist injury coupled with a three-game losing streak, it looked like the Bengals’ season was over. However, Browning has kept the Bengals alive in the AFC playoff picture with leading Cincinnati to two straight wins after a 16-10 loss to the Steelers in Week 12, which was Browning’s first career start.

The Bengals-Colts game was tied at 14-14 after two quarters, but Indy fell apart in the second half and couldn’t muster anything offensively. Indianapolis’ first four second-half possessions ended with two punts, a pick thrown by Gunner Minshew and a failed fourth-down attempt. The Bengals out-gained the Colts, 385-272. Cincinnati especially won the battle in the trenches, as they out-gained the Colts on the ground, 111-46. The loss for Indianapolis snapped a four-game winning streak.

Veteran Joe Flacco also had a banner day in the Browns’ 31-27 win over the Jaguars. Flacco threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns, posting a 92.0 quarterback rating. Not bad for a 38-year-0ld that was on the couch three weeks ago. The Browns have now won a game with four different starting QBs this season.

All three of Flacco’s touchdown passes went for 30 yards or more. He had touchdown passes of 30 and 34 yards out to tight end David Njoku in the first half to give the Browns a 14-0 lead. His last touchdown went to David Bell for 41 yards on fourth-and-3 to give the Browns a 28-14 lead with 12:34 remaining in the fourth quarter. Flacco is the first Browns QB with three touchdown passes of 30 yards or more in a single game since Brian Sipe did it in 1980, per ESPN Stats & Info

Trevor Lawrence rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes but a 55-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins sandwiched in-between Jacksonville’s two scores made the game out of reach. The Browns’ defense forced four turnovers in the game, three of which were interceptions off Lawrence.

The Ravens edged out the Rams in overtime 37-31, thanks to a 76-yard walk-off punt return by Tylan Wallace. With the win, Baltimore (10-3) remains atop the AFC standings, a half-game ahead of Miami. Lamar Jackson passed for 316 yards and three touchdowns, recording a quarterback rating of 92.8. He also rushed for 70 yards on 11 carries (6.4 average). Matthew Stafford matched Jackson with three touchdown passes. Both teams also had over 400 yards of offense.

Jackson threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Likely in the first quarter and a 46-yarder to Odell Beckham Jr. in the second. Beckham led the Ravens in receiving with four receptions for 97 yards (24.3 average). Jackson’s most impressive touchdown pass came in the clutch. On third-and-17 and with Aaron Donald in his face, Jackson threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Zay Flowers to give the Ravens a 29-28 lead with 1:16 remaining. Jackson then connected to Flowers on the 2-point conversion to make it a 3-point game at 31-28. Stafford completed a 19-yard pass to Demarcus Robinson and a 34-yarder to Cooper Kupp to set Lucas Havrisik up for the game-tying 36-yard field goal.

On Saturday, the Bengals host the Vikings at 1 p.m., while the Steelers face the Colts in Indy on at 4:30 p.m. On Sunday, the Browns play the Bears in Cleveland at 1 p.m., while the Ravens face the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday Night Football.