NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Four Team Race
by Dennis Ranahan

The American Football Conference North Division has suddenly emerged as the most intriguing of 2018.

First we have the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that has dominated this division like a big brother dominates his younger sibling. The team that most often challenges the Steelers is the Baltimore Ravens, who they meet tonight to complete Sunday NFL action.

This year, the Cincinnati Bengals have reintroduced themselves into the AFC mix, and in a year that seems to find the Steelers down a notch the Browns have registered on the talent chart for the first time in a decade. The Browns entered action today perfect against the point spread, and as underdogs in Oakland today have a chance to win their second straight game.

If they do, they will be one of three teams with a single loss, while either the Steelers or Ravens will suffer their second setback tonight.

The Ravens come into tonight’s road game against their longtime rival half a game ahead in the standings, the Ravens have won one more and the Steelers registered an opening week tie against the aforementioned Browns.

What we have here is a four way race, and the team that wins tonight will join the Bengals as the team with an early division edge.

So, who is going to win when Baltimore visits Heinz Field for this primetime telecast?

The home team needs it a little more, but the Steelers have shown more cracks in their armour this year than the Ravens. Baltimore opened with a romp win over the Buffalo Bills and won last week over the Denver Broncos. Between those two victories, the Ravens lost to the Bengals in Cincinnati.

What we have here is the possibility of a four team race. If the Browns really are improved, and if they were to get their second win in a matter of weeks today at Oakland, then the battle for supremacy in the AFC North is on.

Only problem with that, is that the AFC North Division this year is a grouping of four teams no more than a bit above average, so while they can have a dogfight in their competitive four team race, when they meet superior talent in the postseason they are likely to be a one and done squad.

While I can’t see the Steelers dropping to the bottom of their division without a strong effort tonight, I also wouldn’t lay points against the Ravens who are right now the better of the two teams.

What does that leave us with?

An intriguing AFC matchup that edges towards the home team but not enough to lay points.

If push comes to shove and I had to pick a team tonight, and I’m glad I don’t, my leanings would be with the home standing Steelers.