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Sunday’s Outcomes Could Dramatically Tighten Up AFC North Race

Not to make an obviously bad situation sound even worse but looking at things on paper, yes, a tricky thing to do in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers could be facing a lot of internal competition after Sunday.

Even with the upset loss to Miami, the Steelers remain in first place at 4-2, a game up on the Baltimore Ravens and two on the Cincinnati Bengals. But Pittsburgh is a heavy underdog to New England and the Ravens/Bengals have two appealing matchups.

The Bengals will host the hapless, 0-6 Cleveland Browns. To be fair, Cleveland has been competitive, losing three times by less than a touchdown, but it’s an offensive line that’s suffering an injury seemingly every week and a defense that continues to take blow after blow. Only once since 2009 has Cleveland beaten the Bengals on the road and it doesn’t look too terribly likely they will reverse those odds Sunday.

The Bengals should be getting back tight end Tyler Eifert for the first time all season, too.

A Bengals win would still put them in a less than ideal spot, 3-4 overall, but with only one divisional game so far – a loss to Pittsburgh – it would get them back in the hunt.

Meanwhile, Baltimore will travel and take on a reeling New York Jets’ club that just flip-flopped and decided to bench Ryan Fitzpatrick. It puts Geno Smith, a man with a career 11-18 record and someone his head coach just basically chewed out to the media, in the drivers seat. In relief of Fitzpatrick on Monday night, he promptly threw an interception and fumbled on a sack in their loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

The Ravens are on a three game losing streak, though all three games have been close, but their running game has been finding more footing and maybe they get a little healthier than what they were a week ago.

A win against the Jets would bump them up to 4-3, tying Pittsburgh in an assumed loss to the Patriots. By virtue of tiebreaker, a better conference record, the Ravens would technically be ahead. Not that it means much at this point in the season, but would make the Week 9 matchup against them all the more important. A loss to them would make the path to winning the AFC North substantially tougher.

That’s why the victory against Miami was even more crushing than usual. It was a prime chance to put a good bit of rope between the Steelers and everyone else and a loss against New England would’ve still given them that slack. Now, the Bengals and Ravens are hot on the Steelers’ heels.

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