First and last face off, but they might be the best of the bunch in the AFC North. All four will brawl in NFL Week 11, leaving a clear winner or a huge mess.
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On the surface, everyone may want to think of NFL Week 11 as being about Eagles vs. Chiefs and leaving it at that. Are these, once again, the two best teams in the league? If so, who has the upper hand heading into the home stretch of the season? It is a simple enough narrative to get behind. However, it is wrong! Week 11 should not be just about this game. Instead, it is shaping up to be one of the main pivot points of the season for the AFC North.
The AFC North is the best division in football. Depending on how you parse these things, it isn’t particularly close. All four teams are above .500, with the last-place Cincinnati Bengals holding it down at 5-4. That 5-4 record includes wins over Buffalo, San Francisco, and Seattle. There is no question that Cincy is the best last-place squad in the league. In fact, all four teams in this division are currently vying for playoff positions more than halfway through the season.
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In Week 11, all four teams face off. The division will certainly be decided this week. Things get started Thursday between the Bengals and Ravens. Both are coming off of losses in Week 10 in rather debilitating fashion and are looking to get back on track. Cincy has more work to do because of the hole it dug itself in the early weeks of the season, particularly considering its first two losses were against North opponents.
After a great first game within the AFC North, Cleveland faces Pittsburgh, a surprisingly consequential matchup which may eliminate the loser from division title contention. Does any of these teams have a leg up? Who’s the favorite? Its an AFC North brawl!
NFL Week 11: AFC North Winner To Be Decided
Todd Salem: Don’t Sleep on Browns
One of the teams that sunk the Bengals early in the season was Baltimore. We are expecting to see a different version of the Joe Burrow-led offense this time around, but the Ravens defense is no joke regardless. A Cincinnati win would do wonders for their place in the standings and creating an all-North playoff field. A loss, though, could submarine the Bengals more than would ordinarily be true of a then 5-5 bunch.
That’s because, in the early Sunday time slot, the rest of this division faces off with Pittsburgh playing at Cleveland. Both of these teams are also ahead of Cincinnati in the North standings. In terms of being playoff-caliber, the Steelers’ and Browns’ resumes both fit the bill, but do they pass the eye test?
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Pittsburgh is mighty streaky, to the point where no one knows if their offense will even function one quarter to the next. Cleveland has a similar issue with its offense but a better defense to lean on. Maybe defense wins championships, but I’m pretty sure a team at least needs a working offense to make the playoffs after 18 weeks.
Heading into this week’s dual matchups, how should we order the AFC North teams in terms of championship contention? Ideally, I want my teams to have top 10 units on both offense and defense, obviously. That puts Baltimore at the head of the pack. They are currently the only team without a massive weakness.
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Cleveland is second in my book. The Browns’ defense may be the single best unit of any unit in this division. Forcing turnovers and generating short fields is all the team needs, particularly if the running game finds space, as it did in Week 10. Give me the Bengals third for their offensive acumen. The defense is getting gashed on the ground, making them almost a mirror image of Cleveland. And I slot Pittsburgh last.
The Steelers currently show worse offensive shortcomings than anyone else in this division, while also not having a superior defense to Cleveland or Baltimore. This team is actually undefeated in the division so far; it likely won’t remain that way much longer.
Dan Salem: Ravens SHOULD Win This
I’d love to sit here and tell you Baltimore is the best team in the league right now, but I’m not sure it is correct. Kansas City and Philadelphia don’t feel like the best either, but this is because there is no single team or teams that truly sit above the pack. Each team up top has looked quite vulnerable on multiple occasions, so the battle for the AFC North is likely as good as it gets.
Here in NFL Week 11 we finally get some real mustard on our sandwich. Outcomes of the two AFC North matchups will ripple across the playoff landscape. My expectations are as follows: The Ravens humiliate Cincinnati and Cleveland stomps on Pittsburgh. Yet what I truly expect is the unexpected, because who knows what Bengals team will arrive to face Baltimore. Can the Steelers keep the bus rolling, despite having an inept driver at quarterback? Are the Browns actually a good team? We’re about to get answers.
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Defense is what is driving the AFC North success, particularly in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Ravens have a stellar defense, but their offense is also quite good. Cincinnati appears to be very good as well, but all four of these teams are not good teams. My order is as follows: Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Steelers. I just can’t get behind Cleveland, despite a great defense. It’s probably because I’m a Jets fan, but facts are facts. You need to score points to be good and the Browns and Steelers are not very good at scoring points.
Baltimore was my favorite in the preseason and they remain in the driver’s seat. If the Bengals manage to defeat them, shenanigans! This division is going to come down to the final week of play and considering how crowded the AFC wildcard race currently is, all four teams will be in competition for a playoff spot then as well. It’s going to be wild, because defense is super important in cold weather. This division is built upon excellent defense.
Meet our Writers:
Dan Salem is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-owner of BuzzChomp. He’s a published author, as well as an award winning Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for his film work, or get lost in his old-school comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Todd Salem is a Staff Writer and Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also a fantasy football and fantasy baseball Staff Writer for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter or comment below for his unfiltered opinions.
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