Steelers: Key Victory Over Patriots Comes at Crucial Time
The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) remain the team to beat in the AFC North, holding a ½-game lead over the Ravens (8-6) with just two games left to play.
Pittsburgh's 17-10 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday snapped a three-game losing streak for the Steelers, and it was their biggest victory of the season. It kept them in first place and put more pressure on the Ravens to keep winning.
Unless the Ravens win their final two games, the Steelers need just one more victory to clinch the division. The Steelers face a tough road game against the New Orleans Saints (11-2) on Sunday, but beating the Patriots gave Pittsburgh some much-needed positive karma. The Steelers' defense played solid football and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made uncharacteristic mistakes, including a fourth-quarter red zone interception that was one of the worst throws of his career.
Brady had beaten the Steelers five straight times and had an 11-3 career record against them before Sunday's game. If the Steelers win the AFC North for the third straight season, they will point to Sunday's victory as a key turning point.
Browns: Cleveland Shows It Will Be Tough to Beat in Week 17
The Browns (6-7-1) are playing meaningful games in December and winning them.
Cleveland's 17-16 victory over the Denver Broncos was the Browns' fourth victory in their last five games. Though their mathematical playoff chances are slim, the Browns are technically still in the wild-card hunt and have a good thing going with young, talented players who are clearly responding to interim Head Coach Gregg Williams.
Cleveland is 4-2 since Williams took over for Hue Jackson, and while Sunday was not the Browns' most impressive performance, they are finding ways to win instead of squandering opportunities.
Rookie running back Nick Chubb reached 100 yards rushing for the third time, and with 860 yards this season, Chubb has a chance to reach 1,000. With Chubb and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield leading the offense, the Browns are playing with swagger, showing they will be a tough out in Week 17 in Baltimore.
They have already beaten the Ravens once this season, and Baltimore will likely need to beat Cleveland on Dec. 30 in the regular-season finale to make the playoffs.
Bengals: Five-Game Losing Streak Snapped, Hopes to Finish .500
Out of the postseason picture, the Bengals (6-8) still have a chance to reach .500 after Sunday's 30-16 victory over the Oakland Raiders, which snapped a five-game losing streak.
Despite season-ending injuries to quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals still have some talented players on offense. Running back Joe Mixon had a career-high 129 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, and wide receiver Tyler Boyd has topped 1,000 yards receiving.
The biggest downer for the Bengals was a knee injury to Boyd, who left in the third quarter. There was no immediate timetable for Boyd's return.
Considering how many major injuries the Bengals have suffered this season, they are surely hoping to avoid them during their final two games. Cincinnati visits Cleveland on Sunday, and a victory would lift the Bengals out of last place in the division. Then Ravens fans may be rooting for Cincinnati to play spoiler in Pittsburgh in Week 17, just as the Bengals did in Baltimore last season.