Cleveland Browns: Eight Wins For First Time Since 2007
Having won three straight, the Browns (8-3) are guaranteed their first non-losing season since 2007. But after Sunday's 27-25 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Browns weren't looking for praise. They were looking to improve, and quarterback Baker Mayfield went on social media to promise he would pick up his game.
Mayfield overthrew Rashad Higgins, who was wide open in the end zone, forcing Cleveland to settle for a field goal. Mayfield was also off target on throws to Jarvis Landry and Kareem Hunt that could have led to big plays.
However, Mayfield has not thrown an interception in his last 123 passing attempts. Against the Jaguars, he completed 19 of 29 passes for 258 yards and connected with Landry (eight catches, 143 yards) and Austin Hooper on touchdown throws.
Running back Nick Chubb (19 carries, 144 yards, one touchdown) continued to be the Browns' best offensive player and is now averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game. While the defense didn't play lights out against the Jaguars, the Browns won their second game without star pass rusher Myles Garrett (Reserve/COVID-19 list).
With five games left, Cleveland would be the top-seeded AFC Wild Card team in the playoffs if the postseason started today. For a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2002, December is going to be a huge month.
"We still have a lot of our best football ahead of us," Landry said via ClevelandBrowns.com. "I'm excited to get back to work."
Pittsburgh Steelers: Strange Week Won't Take Focus Off Beating Baltimore
As of Monday morning, the Steelers had four players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, including two starters – defensive lineman Steven Tuitt and running back James Conner. The Steelers didn't practice for three days before returning to the field Sunday to prepare for Tuesday night's game against the Ravens.
It has also been reported that Steelers Special Teams Coach Danny Smith and Quarterbacks Coach Matt Canada have tested positive for COVID-19.
It has been a strange and difficult week, but it's still Ravens vs. Steelers and Pittsburgh (10-0) is still leading the division as the league's only unbeaten team. Despite the distractions, the Steelers vow to be ready Tuesday night at Heinz field.
"This is just a chapter in our book," defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said via ESPN.com. "This is something we will be able to write down in the future and hopefully it is along with a Super Bowl, but for this group, we just keep rolling with it."
The Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) won Sunday and kept pressure on Pittsburgh in the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed. With Conner out, Benny Snell Jr. is expected to carry the workload at running back against the Ravens. In Week 1 against the New York Giants, Snell rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries.
"I have no reservation about Benny Snell as a featured runner," Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said.
Cincinnati Bengals: Stretch Without Burrow Will Help Determine Rebuilding Plan
It was not surprising that the Bengals (2-8-1) struggled offensively Sunday in their first game since Joe Burrow's season-ending knee injury.
Cincinnati didn't reach the red zone until the fourth quarter during a 19-17 loss to the Giants, with Brandon Allen (17-for-29, 136 yards, one touchdown, one interception) starting at quarterback in place of Burrow. The Bengals' first touchdown came on a 103-yard kickoff return by Brandon Wilson, but for most of the day their offense was stymied.
Rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins (five catches, 44 yards) caught Cincinnati's lone touchdown pass and continued his strong season (48 catches, 673 yards, five touchdowns). Higgins and Burrow give the Bengals two young talents to build around, but during the final five games of the season, coaches and teammates want to see which players continue to grind during a December that could be difficult. That will help the Bengals determine which players they want to build around moving forward.
"If you're not playing to that standard or not doing everything to that standard, then I think it should make it clear what is going to happen next year, who is going to be here in this locker room," Bengals safety Jessie Bates said via ESPN.com.