AFC-North

For the last decade the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been top dogs, winning the division championship eight of the last ten years between the two.

The Steelers have definitely seen the most success, winning the Super Bowl in the 2005-06 and 2008-09 seasons. Most recently, the Steelers reached the Super Bowl in 2010-11 season, losing to the Green Bay Packers.

Before Week 14 of this season, the Ravens sat in first place in the division with a 9-4 record. Trailing them were the Cincinnati Bengals and the Steelers, both with 7-6 records and both in the wild card race.

The Bengals played the Philadelphia Eagles in the Thursday Night Football game. Cincinnati won handily 34-13, narrowing the gap with the Ravens and putting pressure on both Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The Ravens hosted the Denver Broncos with a chance to clinch the division title. Denver had other plans, beating the Ravens soundly in front of the home crowd 34-17.

With “Big Ben” Roethlisberger back in the lineup after being out three weeks due to injury, the Steelers went on the road to play the surging Dallas Cowboys at “Jerry World.” No doubt Pittsburgh looked at this as a must-win game. Dallas, being in their own tight division race, had other ideas.

After a back and forth battle, the game went to overtime. The Steelers won the coin toss and looked to be in control, but on only the second play of the OT period, Big Ben threw an interception to Brandon Carr, which he returned to the Steelers one-yard line. A chip shot field goal by Cowboys Kicker Dan Bailey sealed the victory for Dallas and sent the Steelers home one game behind the Bengals in the Wild Card race and two games behind the Ravens in the division race.

The good news for the Steelers is that they have the easier schedule between the three to finish the year, hosting Cincinnati and then Cleveland. Cincinnati, after travelling to Pittsburgh, must then play the Ravens. Assuming the Steelers beat the Bengals next week, they will own the tie breaker over the Bengals should they finish with identical records. With the Indianapolis Colts sitting in the fifth spot with a 9-5 record, the sixth will have to be either the Steelers or Bengals, as all other AFC teams below them have losing records and cannot make the playoffs.

In any case, it looks as though the AFC North race will end dramatically.

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