The AFC North had a bounce-back weekend with the Ravens, Steelers and Browns all winning.
Here’s the latest news from around the division:
Steelers: Getting Breaks, Hanging in the Race
The Ravens are riding a five-game winning streak and currently sit in position for a first-round bye, but they can’t get comfortable.
The Steelers won their fourth-straight game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, 17-12. A team that started 0-3 and sat at 1-4 a little more than a month ago, Pittsburgh is still lurking just two games behind Baltimore at 5-4.
It was a sparkling defensive performance for the Steelers and, once again, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Steelers’ trade of a first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for Fitzpatrick has paid off handsomely. Against the Rams’ dangerous offense, Fitzpatrick scored on a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown and got the game-sealing pick in the final minute.
The Steelers are also riding a wave of good fortune. The fumble return for a touchdown could have easily been called an incomplete pass.
Last week against the Indianapolis Colts, Fitzpatrick scored on a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown and veteran Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt in the final minutes of a 26-24 Steelers victory.
The Steelers aren’t winning pretty, but they just keep winning. After three-straight home games, they will finish with five of the next seven on the road, however. They will come to Baltimore on Dec. 29 in the regular-season finale, hoping to still be in the chase for the division crown.
Browns: End Four-Game Skid With Late Baker Mayfield Touchdown
The Browns’ slide is over, as quarterback Baker Mayfield delivered a 7-yard touchdown pass with 1:44 remaining for a 19-16 home win against the Buffalo Bills.
Cleveland had dropped four straight games and was desperate for a win just to stay at least in the hunt. At 3-6, the Browns aren’t out of it, but they’re definitely on the brink.
“We still didn’t play perfect by any means,” said Mayfield, who was 26-of-38 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. After throwing at least one interception in the Browns’ first seven games, Mayfield hasn’t turned the ball over in the past two games.
The Browns will play the Steelers twice over their next three games, starting with Thursday Night Football this week from Cleveland.
Bengals: Ryan Finley’s Top Competition Likely From College Ranks
Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley has replaced veteran Andy Dalton as the Bengals seemingly want to get a good look at their rookie the rest of the way this season.
Finley’s top competition now may be the top college quarterbacks who went head-to-head Saturday night in Alabama vs. LSU.
The Bengals are the only winless team in the NFL (the Washington Redskins are next with one victory), and thus in the driver’s seat for the top pick in the 2020 draft.
“Finley isn't competing against anyone on Cincinnati's roster to be Dalton's successor as the Bengals' top quarterback,” wrote ESPN’s Ben Baby. “He will likely have to fend off Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa or LSU's Joe Burrow, two potential options who could be on the board when the Bengals make their first pick.”
Finley was 16-of-30 for 167 yards, one touchdown and one interception (a pick-six to Marcus Peters) in his first NFL start. The Bengals will face the Steelers once and Browns twice more this season, so the Ravens will hope Finley – who flashed some bright spots in Sunday’s blowout loss – plays well down the stretch.