NFL playoff photo: How Lamar Jackson’s injury and Ravens loss to Browns impact AFC North run| Today Headlines

NFL playoff photo: How Lamar Jackson’s injury and Ravens loss to Browns impact AFC North run

| News Today | Yahoo news

The Ravens were seated well at the start of Week 12, battling well against their many injuries to climb to the top seed in the AFC playoffs. But after back-to-back losses in close division to Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Baltimore (8-5) lost full control of AFC North at the end of Week 14.

Lamar Jackson, who had been huge early in the season leading big comebacks in the fourth quarter, was in a temporary slump before injuring his ankle against the Browns. While replacement Tyler Huntley almost pulled off a successful Jackson-style rally, the bottom line is that the Ravens might need to play more games without their former quarterback MVP.

The Ravens lagged behind the Patriots, Titans and Chiefs – all of whom are 9-4 after Week 14 – at the No.4 seed. With the NFC 49ers winning the Bengals (7-6), the Ravens will remain at least in first place in the division.

But this lead is the thinnest with the Browns (7-6) and the Bengals tied for second, just one game behind the Ravens. The Steelers (6-6-1) are only a game and a half behind despite their Week 14 opening loss to the NFC Vikings.

Here’s a look at how the Jackson and Ravens injury-related fade opens up playoff positions for all of AFC North:

MORE: Updated Full NFL Playoff Picture for Week 14

NFL Playoff Photo: AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (8-5)

Remaining calendar strength: 622

Remaining division matches: Week 16 at the Bengals, Week 18 against the Steelers

There are still out-of-division games: Week 15 vs. Packers, Week 17 vs. Rams

The Ravens have two more brutal home games against elite NFC opponents. They must also try to avenge their home loss to Cincinnati and their road loss to Pittsburgh. They are only 1-3 in the division, having only beaten the Browns in Week 12.

Beating the Packers and Rams would be tough even with Jackson. The same would be true for their last two North games given the previous results of the two clashes. 2-2 looks like the best finishing scenario for Baltimore, or a final record of 10-7.

Cleveland Browns (7-6)

Remaining calendar strength: .570

Remaining division matches: Week 17 at Steelers, Week 18 against Bengals

There are still out-of-division games: Week 15 against Raiders, Week 16 at Packers

The Browns are peaking late as they did in ending their playoff drought last season. They also beat the division-winning Steelers for a trip to the 2020 AFC Division playoffs. The Ravens’ after-bye victory didn’t just save Cleveland’s next season; this put the team in a great position to reach the division champions.

The Browns are 2-2 in the division and have a good chance of finishing 4-2 with the manageable Steelers on the road and the once routed Bengals at home in the past two weeks. The Browns are also expected to deal with the Raiders who fade away at home next week. Winning at Lambeau Field in Week 16 with Green Bay having the NFC ranking on the line would be a tall order. Still, the Browns should feel good about their chances of finishing 3-1, 10-7.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)

Remaining force of the calendar:.571

Remaining division matches: Week 16 against Ravens, Week 18 at Browns

There are still out-of-division games: Week 15 at Broncos, Week 17 against Chiefs

The Bengals came out of their Week 11 break with two big wins against the Raiders and Steelers before losing to the Chargers at home and are heading for similar results against the 49ers. The Week 15 game in Denver is critical for wildcard odds, but getting revenge against Cleveland in the other game will be more difficult after being knocked out the first time around.

The Bengals should feel confident in a rematch against the Ravens after dominating the former. They will, however, have to eat the game against Kansas City, which will play for something. There is a wide range of results from 3-1 to 0-4 over the past month, given that this is a real ‘wild card’ of a young and talented team. Let’s crush it and say the Bengals are heading 9-8.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)

Remaining calendar strength: .635

Remaining division matches: Week 17 against Browns, Week 18 at the Ravens

There are still out-of-division games: Week 15 vs. Titans, Week 16 at Chiefs

The Steelers will kick each other for their slow start to Minnesota and their poor points defense that cost them a big week. They have the toughest roster on the left with the AFC South Titans and AFC West top Chiefs back-to-back before they complete the division game. The Browns are simply better than the Steelers now and the Ravens will be a tough sweep attempt on the road as well.

It doesn’t look good for the Steelers to repeat in their division, whether it’s around 8-8-1 or 7-9-1.

Who will win the AFC North and who else will participate in the playoffs?

Based on projections from the past month and the current state of each team, the Browns should be considered the lightweight favorites to beat the Ravens due to the conference record tiebreaker. The Bengals also have a chance to fight for two consecutive years with three Northern teams in the AFC playoffs, moving the Steelers from their previous position.

In that case, the Browns would be capped at No.4, with the Ravens and Bengals being content with No.6 and 7 at best in a certain order. Between these teams, the Chargers and the Bills, a dangerous team will be left out.

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