AFC North race changes quickly in two weeks

AFC North race changes quickly in two weeks
November 27, 2012, 4:45 pm
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Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh celebrates after a 16-13 overtime win against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

(Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE)

The AFC North was a very tight division about two weeks ago. But those days are gone now. 

The Ravens and Steelers are going in different directions while Cincinnati is trying to come up on the outside, but the Bengals are a now a bit of a long shot. This Sunday's Baltimore-Pittsburgh battle should go a long way towards deciding something in the division. 

If coach John Harbaugh's Ravens win, they'd improve to 10-2 this season with a four-game lead over the Steelers with just four games left. The sweep of the season series would basically lock the Steelers out of any shot at the divison title, and they'd need to hope for a wild-card spot if they wanted to get into the playoffs this year.

Cincinnati has gotten hot recently and won three straight games. The Bengals now have a 6-5 record and are tied with the Steelers, three games behind the Ravens at 9-2.

The Bengals next have San Diego, Dallas and the Eagles before finishing the season with the Steelers and Ravens. Right now, they're in the same spot as Pittsburgh in terms of winning the division. For example, if the Ravens finished the season by going 2-3 in their last five games, the Bengals would have to go 5-0 just to tie the Ravens. 

The play of the Ravens and Steelers in the past few weeks have gone a long way towards the change. Baltimore beat both Pittsburgh and San Diego on the road. After losing to the Ravens, the Steelers then got upset by the Browns. That turned a one-game Ravens lead into a three-game advantage with five games left. 

A Ravens' win on Sunday would go a long way towards wrapping up the AFC North, no matter how they do in the final four weeks or how the the other teams far. That's a good spot to be in.