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Tuesday, December 14, 2010
AFC North Power Rankings Analysis

By James Walker

The AFC North went .500 in Week 14.

Here is how things turned out in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings:

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3)

Cumulative vote: No. 3

Walker's vote: No. 4

Analysis: The Steelers remained at No. 3 this week after beating the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-7. The AFC North blog predicted Monday that there would be no change in Pittsburgh's ranking after the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons both won this past Sunday. My vote for Pittsburgh at No. 4 has been consistent the past few weeks. I have the New Orleans Saints (10-3) rated one spot ahead of Pittsburgh. I watched both teams play on Halloween, and the Saints beat the Steelers pretty handily.

Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

Cumulative vote: No. 5

Walker's vote: No. 5

Analysis: My vote and the overall panel agreed the Ravens deserved to fall one spot to No. 5 this week after a close, overtime win over the Houston Texans on "Monday Night Football." Despite a 21-point lead, the Ravens failed to put the Texans away in the second half and nearly had an embarrassing collapse. But cornerback Josh Wilson saved Baltimore in overtime with a 12-yard interception return for a touchdown. This is a very talented team that is struggling to close games, and that is a concern down the stretch. Baltimore has a tough contest this week against New Orleans, where the Ravens have to play well for four quarters.

Cleveland Browns (5-8)

Cumulative vote: No. 21

Walker's vote: No. 26

Analysis: The Browns suffered their ugliest loss of the season to the lowly Buffalo Bills, 13-6. Cleveland could not get anything going against a team it should be able to beat at this point in the season. It was a major step back for the Browns in terms of their progression. With that offense, I think it's going to be hard for Cleveland to win more than one additional game down the stretch. Sunday's "Battle of Ohio" against Cincinnati will not be as easy as it looks on paper for the Browns.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-11)

Cumulative vote: No. 31

Walker's vote: No. 31

Analysis: There was no debate about how bad the Bengals are. All four voters rated Cincinnati No. 31, ahead of just the Carolina Panthers (1-12). The Bengals are on a NFL-high 10-game losing streak and all of these games are starting to look alike. Cincinnati is poor at executing and doesn't have the discipline it takes to win games. Ironically, the Bengals have a chance to end their 10-game skid this weekend against the same team that started it: Cleveland.