- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN.com's final NFL Power Rankings for this season is in the books.
Here is how the results in Week 17 impacted the AFC North:
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Cumulative vote: No. 3
Walker's vote: No. 3
Analysis: Pittsburgh jumped two spots this week after a convincing 41-9 blowout of Cleveland. Pittsburgh clinched the AFC North title and a first-round bye with the victory. I also voted Pittsburgh two spots higher this week and ahead of the Ravens for a couple of reasons. First, Pittsburgh dominated the Browns, while Baltimore struggled against the Bengals at home. Second, Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu returned and Pittsburgh is close to being full strength.
Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
Cumulative vote: No. 4
Walker's vote: No. 4
Analysis: The Ravens dropped one spot to No. 4 this week. Baltimore is the only team in the top four not to win its division. Despite their struggles last week, the Ravens enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and will be a very tough out this postseason. But they need more consistent production from their offense. Baltimore will travel to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Kansas City is 7-1 at home this season.
Cleveland Browns (5-11)
Cumulative vote: No. 27
Walker's vote: No. 28
Analysis: The Browns finished strong last year but ended this season on a four-game losing streak. The result was head coach Eric Mangini being fired Monday, and the Browns will begin a new coaching search. Cleveland added some good, young players this year. But the team still has a long way to go to compete in the AFC North. The Browns were swept by the Ravens and Steelers this season and split with the Bengals to finish 1-5 in the division. Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy also needs to have a great offseason and continue to improve for 2011.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)
Cumulative vote: No. 31
Walker's vote: No. 27
Analysis: I'm surprised Cincinnati was voted the second-worst team in the NFL. I liked the way the Bengals fought at the end of the season, winning two of their last three games. Sunday's loss to Baltimore was very competitive. Cincinnati had a chance to pull the upset at the end. But perhaps the panel favored the fact that, overall, it was an underachieving year for the Bengals. Cincinnati is expected to retain head coach Marvin Lewis but expect changes to the roster this offseason.