Twelve weeks down, five weeks to go in the 2011 NFL season. The AFC playoff picture got quite a bit more interesting after this week's developments. Houston overcame the loss of Matt Schaub (and the ninny Matt Leinart) to stave off the Jacksonville Jaguars. The win keeps them in the top spot in the conference with five weeks remaining. New England got its offense humming in a convincing road win over the Philadelphia Eagles. They too are 8-3. The Oakland Raiders also held on to their division lead out west with a 25-20 win over the Chicago Bears. Finally, Baltimore's Thanksgiving night win over the San Francisco 49ers meant that the best Pittsburgh could do this week was keep pace with a win Sunday night over the Chiefs. They did just that. Hot on Pittsburgh's heels is Cincinnati, who eeked out a win over Cleveland to snap a two-game skid and hold on to the sixth and final seed in the playoff race for at least another week. Next Sunday's showdown at Heinz Field is enormous for the Bengals. Finally, three Wild Card contenders -- the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans -- all won to keep the pressure on the Bengals, and in the case of Denver, Oakland in the AFC West race.
Let's hone in on the AFC North race though and take a look at the updated standings and what transpired for each of the four teams in Week 12.
|Team||Record||Div. Record||Conf. Record||Streak||Scoring Differential|
||8-3||3-0||5-2||Won 2||+ 90|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||8-3||1-2||6-3||Won 2
||6-3||Won 1||+ 48|
|Cleveland Browns||4-7||0-2||3-5||Lost 1||- 51|
AFC North Week 12 Breakdown
- Week 12 Result:16-6 W vs. San Francisco 49ers
- How they did it: In typical Ravens fashion, Baltimore relied on a critical pass interference penalty in their favor to squeak out just enough offense to beat a 49ers squad that I'm entirely confident will continue to look more like the 9-7 / 10-6 type team that they are. Give credit though to the Ravens defense for sacking Alex Smith nine times on the night. Terrell Suggs, who had three of the nine takedowns of Smith, might be in line for another AFC Defensive Player of the Week nod.
- Remaining Games: @ Cleveland Browns, vs. Indianapolis Colts, at San Diego Chargers, vs. Cleveland Browns, at Cincinnati Bengals
- Record: 8-3
- Week 12 Result: 13-9 W at Kansas City Chiefs
- How they did it: It was far from pretty for the Steelers in Week 12. They just couldn't get out of their own way offensively, and, of course, the Chiefs defense deserves a lot of credit for playing so well. Pittsburgh's defense wasn't perfect, but at the end of the day, it's hard to find too much fault in a performance that saw them keep KC's offense out of the endzone.
- Remaining Games: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, vs. Cleveland Browns, at San Francisco 49ers, vs. St. Louis Rams, at Cleveland Browns
- Record: 7-4
- Week 12 Result: 23-20 W vs. Cleveland Browns
- How they did it: In my Week 12 Picks post this weekend, I noted Cincinnati's propensity to fall behind early as the primary reason why I was taking the Browns to cover the 7 points the Bengals were laying. The Bengals couldn't pull off comebacks in Weeks 10 and 11, but they overcame a 17-7 deficit at half to win by a field goal, 23-20, in the game's final minutes. AJ Green made the highlight-reel 51-yard catch and run to set up the game-winner, but it was Cedric Benson's tough running (21 carries, 106 yards, 1 TD) that allowed Cincinnati to not stray from its optimal formula for success -- a near 50-50 run-pass ratio.
- Remaining Games: at Pittsburgh Steelers, vs. Houston Texans, at St. Louis Rams, vs. Arizona Cardinals, vs. Baltimore Ravens
- Record: 4-7
- Week 12 Result: 23-20 L at Cincinnati Bengals
- How they did it: For the second time in three weeks, a botched snap on a late field goal attempt cost the Cleveland Browns mightily. Two Sundays ago against the St Louis Rams, Phil Dawson's potential game-winner was basically a chip shot. Against the Bengals in Week 12, Dawson's attempt was from 55 yards out. Considering he had a 54-yarder earlier in the game, it's safe to say he has the leg to make that kick provided the snap and hold is clean. As noted above, the Browns blew a ten point lead in the second half thanks to an anemic offensive showing in the game's final 30 minutes. 34 passing attempts to amass 151 yards for Colt McCoy. Very troublesome. This new west coast offense has a long, long way to go.
- Remaining Games: vs. Baltimore Ravens, at Pittsburgh Steelers, at Arizona Cardinals. at Baltimore Ravens, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC Standings Through Week 10:
Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
Oakland Raiders (7-4)
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3)
Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
Denver Broncos (6-5)
New York Jets (6-5)
- Tennessee Titans (6-5)