OWINGS MILLION, Md. (AP) – Post-season will come soon for the AFC North.
That’s how Kevin Zeitler of the Baltimore offensive sees it, at least.
“I would say every week from here on is a playoff,” said Zeitler, a 10-year veteran who now plays for his AFC North third team.
Welcome to the NFL’s perfect equal storm. The AFC North co-leaders – Baltimore and Cincinnati – are also just one match ahead of bottom-placed Cleveland. Sandwiched in between in third place are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who would have been part of that first-place deadlock had it not been. a tie against what was then a non-winning Detroit team.
No one in the AFC North is below 0.5 points. In fact, no one has been below .500 since Pittsburgh suffered 2-3 after Week 5. There is another division – the AFC West – with everyone at .500 or higher, but Kansas City leads two. matches on top of that group, which might make the ending a little less suspenseful.
There is no such problem in the AFC North, where each team will play two of the last three matches of the tournament. And the remaining four undivided matches are extremely hot: the Browns-Packers and Steelers-Chiefs this week, followed by the Bengals-Chiefs and Ravens-Rams on January 2.
During Week 18, the Steelers visit Baltimore and the Bengals play in Cleveland. If it weren’t for that Pittsburgh draw with the Lions, a 4-way stalemate 9-8 would be a remarkably realistic scenario.
“If you’ve been doing this for a while, obviously rookies won’t understand, but really you just have to step in, right? You have to get to the top at the right time,” said Steelers full-back Ben Roethlisberger. “And I’m not saying we’re at the top or we’re going to get there, but we’re winning the games that we are, you know, the games that are over or we’ll be back. Again, we are fighting. So we know that there is a bit of life and we will keep fighting once a week. “
Maybe we should know something happened after Week 2, when all 4 teams in the Northern AFC drew 1-1. Since then, Baltimore has kept at least part of the division lead every week, but as Raven has taken on sole ownership, it has never lasted more than a game. Now, Baltimore’s three-game unbeaten run has helped the Bengals (8-6) pull back even.
The Raven (8-6) plays in Cincinnati this weekend with the winner alone taking first place.
“We know we have a big challenge this week,” said Zeitler, who is in his first season with Raven after playing for the Giants, Browns and Bengals before that. “They are playing very well. We will have to give it all we have to take care of the business. “
The situation in the AFC North is an extreme version of what is happening across the league. There are 27 teams that still have a mathematical chance to win the Super Bowl. That’s the most in NFL history with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
This is only the second season in AFC history (the other being 2002) in which 13 teams have scored .500 or more over the course of 15 weeks.
Roethlisberger said: “The whole AFC felt as if it was a jumbled mess. “I think our division can be considered one of the toughest in the NFL, and so we’re constantly beating each other.”
Pittsburgh (7-6-1) has a draw against Detroit to look back on with regret. Cleveland (7-7) can also draw first if not Las Vegas goal at the last second beat the Browns on Monday night.
The Steelers and Browns are both underrated this week, and since Baltimore and Cincinnati are both unlikely to lose, a defeat would be expensive for Pittsburgh or Cleveland.
The urgency was obvious to those teams. Then again, a loss would be a major setback for anyone in this division at the moment.
“Try and go until 10-7. That’s the goal,” Browns defensive player Malik Jackson said. “We understand our position. We understand that we need to start helping ourselves, getting some wins and putting ourselves in the post-season.”
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https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2021/12/23/tight-afc-north-prepares-for-wild-finish-to-regular-season/ Tight preparation for AFC North for regular season – CBS Baltimore