Friday Forecast: Week 17 picks

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
12:15
PM ET
This is Friday Forecast, where we'll see how my predictions hold up against our readers'. This week, I will go against StrengthOfVictory (who correctly matched my total points for the Ravens-Bengals game). The other reader who qualified, BmoreNotLess, didn't record picks.

Here are our predictions for Sunday's AFC North games in Week 17:

Jamison Hensley

Ravens 24, Bengals 13

Steelers 20, Browns 10

StrengthOfVictory

Bengals 20, Ravens 17

Steelers 24, Browns 13

PREDICTION BREAKDOWN

Ravens 24, Bengals 13: Both teams need this game as far as playoffs, so neither has an edge in motivation. The difference will come down to the red zone. The biggest weakness of the Cincinnati defense all season has been stopping teams inside the 20-yard line. The Bengals rank 26th in red zone defense, while the Ravens are second. Baltimore running back Ray Rice will be a factor around the goal line. In five division games, he has averaged 109 yards rushing and has scored five rushing touchdowns.

Steelers 20, Browns 10: Even if Ben Roethlisberger plays the entire game, this one will be a repeat of the Steelers' game against the St. Louis Rams. Pittsburgh will control the game with its running attack against the NFL's 30th-ranked run defense. Expect another 100-yard rushing day for Rashard Mendenhall. But Cleveland won't let this game become a blowout because it will be able to run the ball as well with Peyton Hillis, who is likely auditioning for the rest of the league as he prepares to enter free agency.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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AFC NORTH SCOREBOARD