AFC NORTH: Week 17

Street Talk AFC NORTH: Week 17

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Quotes of the Week:
 
“It was a big win for us; a win of course that we needed,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “It’s good to see this team bounce back with what was a team effort. The guys answered the bell. They responded and stepped up and made plays at critical times. The guys’ roles got expanded during the course of battle, like it does at times. I thought they answered.”
 
“I think you respect a guy that goes out there and regardless of the situation, continues to fight,” Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said. “We could have easily said, ‘Let’s just go ahead and continue to run the ball.’ But Troy hung in there, through a lot of adversity on the field and continued to battle with them."
 
"I guarantee that their equipment people brought the hats and the T-shirts," said Bengals receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh of the playoff merchandise. "And now they will box them back up and put them on the airplane, go back to Cleveland and hopefully get them out next week."
 
"We’ve struggled with the run all year," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "We struggled with the run today. What’s happened over the course of the year happened today."
 
AFC North
Team W L T PCT PF PA Home Road AFC NFC DIV Streak
Pittsburgh 10 5 0 .667 372 242 7-1 3-4 7-4 3-1 5-0 Won 1
Cleveland 9 6 0 .600 382 375 6-1 3-5 7-5 2-1 3-3 Lost 1
Cincinnati 6 9 0 .400 342 360 5-3 1-6 5-6 1-3 3-3 Won 1
Baltimore 4 11 0 .267 248 363 3-4 1-7 1-10 3-1 0-5 Lost 9
 
Week # 16 – AFC North Scores
 
Seattle          27            Baltimore      6                   

 
Cincinnati   19            Cleveland     14                             

 
Pittsburgh   41            St. Louis       24    

 
Baltimore Ravens
 
With 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith completing 16 of 33 passes in his 1st NFL start, the Ravens extended their franchise-record losing streak to 9 games. It took Smith’s 79-yard TD pass to Derrick Mason with 4:41 left for Baltimore to avoid its 1st shutout since Sept. 15, 2002. When asked if there was anything from Smith’s day that made him feel good, curt Ravens coach Brian Billick’s first words were, "Well, he got through the game." Smith was left to essentially carry a sickly offense without Willis McGahee, who left the game with an injury to his ribs. He got Baltimore into Seattle territory for the only time in its first eight drives by completing five consecutive passes late in the opening half. Then Patrick Kerney knocked the ball out of his hand and Julian Peterson recovered.
 
The Ravens lost another fumble to give them 25, most in the NFL this season when RB Mike Anderson appeared to be down on the ground before fumbling. Jonathan Ogden was grabbing his left hamstring early in the game but played until late. TE Quinn Sypniewski also strained his hamstring. He was playing because Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox were already hurt.
 
Cincinnati Bengals
 
RB Kenny Watson rushed for 130 yards and a TD, only the fourth 100-yard game of his career. Starter Rudi Johnson was inactive with a hamstring injury that has bothered him most of the season. Watson’s solid game helped the Bengals to hold onto the 19-point lead that the Bengals forged in the 1st half. Carson Palmer struggled with a gusting wind, going 11-of-21 for 115 yards with 2 INT and 1 TD.
 
"I never really got a good sense of which way it was blowing," Palmer said. "It was really swirling. It was an ugly game, and a tough one to play in if you’re trying to throw the football."
 
The wind swirled through Paul Brown Stadium, made the goal posts gyrate and dropped the wind chill into the teens. With the Bengals desperately trying to stave off the Browns in the 4th quarter, Watson padded his second 100-yard day of the season with 2 huge 3rd-and-1 conversions with 3:51 and 2 minutes left as the Bengals clicked the clock to the 2-minute warning leading 19-14. They started the final drive with the ball on their own 22 as they saddled up behind Anderson and the right side.Shayne Graham kicked his 29th and 30th field goals, passing Doug Pelfrey for the Bengals record.
 
Cleveland Browns
 
Like one of Derek Anderson’s wind-blown passes, the chance to clinch a playoff spot slipped right through the teams’ hands. No surprise, really. Nothing comes easy to these guys. Now, there’s a chance the playoffs may not come their way at all. Anderson threw 4 INT Sunday, 2 of them setting up rapid-fire TD by the Bengals. "We’re getting close," receiver Joe Jurevicious said. "We’re still a young team. We’ve got to correct a few mistakes. It’s not time to put our heads down and sulk."
 
Instead, it’s time to sweat a little.
 
Cleveland could have clinched with a victory over the down-and-out Bengals, who had nothing more than pride on the line and several starters out with injuries. The Browns acted more like a team playing it out. They dropped passes. They botched a FG attempt. They came up short on 4th-and-short. Ultimately, they couldn’t overcome a bad game by Anderson, who had his best moments when the intrastate rivals met in September. Cleveland finishes at home against San Francisco. Tennessee ends the season at Indianapolis, which has already clinched the AFC’s No. 2 seed. With Cleveland’s loss, the Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC North title.
 
Pittsburgh Steelers
 
Willie Parker’s season ended after his 1st carry, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will miss the NFL’s leading rusher in the playoffs. But they don’t miss him yet. Najeh Davenport, a career backup RB with typical nondescript statistics, has had 2 huge games since entering the league as a 4th-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2002. Both have come against the St. Louis Rams, with Davenport’s 3-touchdown, 123-yard rushing effort pacing a 41-24 victory on Thursday night. The Steelers’ top-rated defense was porous again, yet they made enough stops to help Pittsburgh out of a late-season swoon. Ben Roethlisberger was 16-for-20 for 261 yards and 3 TD with no INT for the Steelers, who had lost 3 of 5 to fall into a tie with the Browns for the AFC North lead. Roethlisberger had his first 200-yard passing effort in 5 games by halftime, helping to revive a struggling offense. 
 
Week # 17 Predictions 
 
Baltimore Ravens (4-11) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
QB Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 47 times in 15 games. Baltimore quarterbacks have thrown 12 TD passes this year; Roethlisberger has thrown 32. RB Najeh Davenport has rushed for 95-472-4 this season and has also caught 18-184-2. Davenport is averaging 4.7 yards per carry in his career. Pittsburgh has only 2 sacks in its last 4 games. Baltimore has lost 25 fumbles this season.
 
Pittsburgh   23     Baltimore   13 
 
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Miami Dolphins (1-14)
 
Cincinnati and Miami combined for twice as many wins in 2006 (14) as they did this season (7). QB Carson Palmer is tied with NYG QB Eli Manning for the league-lead in INT with 19.  DE Jason Taylor has 6 sacks in the last 5 games. Miami hasn’t won consecutive games at home since Weeks 13 and 14 of 2006. Miami has allowed at least 163 rushing yards in 4 straight games.
 
Cincinnati   27     Miami   10 
 
Cleveland Browns (9-6) vs. San Francisco 49ers (5-10)
 
San Francisco has won both of QB Shaun Hill’s starts. He’s completed 68.4 percent of his passes and has thrown 5 TD passes and only 1 INT. RB Frank Gore has rushed for 50-227-0 in his last 2 games. LB Patrick Willis had 20 tackles in Week 16 and has double-digit tackles in 9-of-15 NFL games. QB Derek Anderson has thrown 2 INT or more in 4 of his 5 losses as a starter. WR Braylon Edwards’ 15 TD catches are a franchise record. Cleveland is averaging 16.8 points in December after averaging 30.3 points in November. Cleveland has won 6 straight at home. WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow are the first pair of 1,000 yard receivers in franchise history. San Francisco will suffer its 5th straight losing season. Their win over Tampa Bay last week was its first over a team with a winning record this season. RB Frank Gore hasn’t scored a rushing TD since Week 12.
 
Cleveland   23     San Francisco   17 
 
Record
 
Week # 16:      2 – 1         
 
Season:         33 – 16

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Eric Buckner

About Eric Buckner

Eric Buckner is a native of Baltimore and has lived in the area his entire life. A graduate of Towson University , Eric has been a student of professional football since the day he wept in his grandfather’s bedroom after the Baltimore Colts were upset by the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. A loyal fan of the Colts and subsequently the Ravens, Eric’s passion for the NFL is unwavering as evidenced by his near flawless attendance record at Ravens’ games. He’s missed only one preseason game — back in 2005. We’ll cut him some slack since he was on his honeymoon. You won’t find Eric slacking when it comes to covering the AFC North for ProFootball24x7.com.
 

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