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Around the AFC North: Bengals' Starting Right Tackle Reportedly Lost for Season

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) plays against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass.

Cincinnati Bengals: La'el Collins Has Reportedly Suffered Season-Ending Knee Injury

The Bengals (11-4) have reportedly lost starting right tackle La'el Collins for the remainder of the season as they battle the Ravens (10-5) for the AFC North title.

Collins was injured during the first quarter of Cincinnati's seventh straight win, a 22-18 decision over the Patriots in Week 16. According to Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Collins is done for the season after an MRI revealed he tore his ACL and MCL.

Cincinnati's offensive line has improved its play after a rocky start protecting quarterback Joe Burrow, who's in the MVP conversation (34 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, 4,260 yards, 102.3 quarterback rating). The Bengals started the season 0-2, and Burrow was sacked a combined 13 times during those two games. Since then, the pass-blocking in front of Burrow has been much more secure, but the Bengals are just 2-3 when Burrow is sacked three times or more.

After seven seasons with the Cowboys, Collins was signed to a three-year contract during free agency to help the Bengals bolster their offensive live. Collins started all 15 games, and 2020 sixth-round Hakeem Adeniji would be his likely replacement for Cincinnati's stretch run. After jumping to a 22-0 lead over New England, the Bengals were held scoreless in the second half without Collins in the game.

With two games left in the regular season, the Bengals have clinched a playoff spot, but are trying to win the division for the second straight year. They can finish as high as a No. 2 seed if they win out, but they could also finish as low as a No. 6 seed by losing their last two games. Cincinnati faces two challenging home games to end the season, hosting the Bills on Monday Night Football in Week 17 before their Week 18 matchup against the Ravens, which could decide the AFC North.

Head Coach Zac Taylor said the Bengals needed to focus their attention on beating the Bills (12-3), before worrying about what could be at stake against Baltimore in Week 18.

"We get a chance now with nine days to get guys as healthy as possible and get ready for a big home game," Taylor said via the team’s website. "This is a game we'll have to have, and our guys will be focused on it."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Riding Momentum Into Sunday Night Matchup With Ravens

The Steelers (7-8) only have slim playoff hopes, but have won four of their last five games following their emotional 13-10 victory over the Raiders on Christmas Eve. On the night that the franchise retired the No. 32 jersey worn by Hall of Famer Franco Harris, just days after his passing at age 72, the Steelers drove 76 yards on their final drive to win the game.

It was the second game-winning drive for rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who is showing an ability to deliver in clutch situations despite growing pains. Pittsburgh's offense struggled most of the game against the Raiders, but Pickett found a way on the game's final drive, throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens for the game-winner.

"I feel like everyone was locked in on what we had to do," Pickett said via Chris Adamski of "We didn't let (the frigid weather) affect us. We came together, executed at a high level for the final 2-minute drive, and got in the end zone and won the game, so that's all that matters."

Up next for the Steelers is their Week 17 matchup against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, which has been flexed to an 8:20 p.m. kickoff on Jan. 1. The Ravens handed Pittsburgh a 16-14 loss in Week 14, but the Steelers would love to reverse the outcome just three weeks later, and they are relying on a defense that hasn't allowed more than 17 points in five straight games.

"They continued to deliver and until we caught fire and finished some drives," Head Coach Mike Tomlin said via the team’s website. "We've been pretty clear that if we were going to do something in this season, that they had to play like that. They're the more senior group. They've got the most established players. Not that we don't appreciate it, but it's expected."

Cleveland Browns: Eliminated From Playoffs, Browns Talk About Playing for Pride

Cleveland (6-9) is officially eliminated from playoff contention following its 17-10 loss to the Saints in Week 16. This is not the way All-Pro defensive send Myles Garrett saw this season playing out, but he believes the Browns will continue to play with pride in their final two games.

"It's' very disappointing," Garrett said via the team’s website. "It's not where we want to be, it's not where we expected to be at the beginning of the season. But at the end of the day, you've got to keep on fighting. You've got to have pride about your job and what you do."

The Browns visit the Commanders in Week 17, and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski said he expected his players to remain focused on winning down the stretch.

"Our focus won't change for next week," Stefanski said. "We're in the business to go down there and try to get a win next week. But obviously it's disappointing."

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