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Friday, April 20, 2012
Clayton's top AFC North games to watch

By Jamison Hensley

ESPN's John Clayton compiled the top 10 matchups to watch for the 2012 season. Not surprisingly, the AFC North had a presence in the rankings.

The Steelers-Ravens rivalry was third on Clayton's list, although I believe it should have been second at worst. Here is Clayton's take on the Steelers-Ravens, who play Nov. 18 and Dec. 2:
This has become the best rivalry in the NFL now that Joe Flacco has shown he can win against the Steelers' defense. This game features two of the best hitting teams in football and some of the most ardent fans. Last season, the Ravens finally took the AFC North title, which should cause the Steelers to be more determined.

The other top matchup involving an AFC North team is the Steelers-Broncos game, which will be played on Sept. 9. There should be no arguments on this one. Here is Clayton's breakdown of the season-opening meeting:
Even though this is a repeat of a 2011 playoff game, the stakes could be even bigger. The Steelers had an entire offseason to reflect on losing in overtime against Tim Tebow when he caught them in an untimely blitz. Now they have to come back to the Mile High City to face a Broncos offense that should be better with Peyton Manning.

The one matchup I would add to this list is Ravens-Patriots. The reason goes beyond this being a rematch of last season's dramatic AFC championship game. The last three regular-season games between these teams have been decided by a a total of 12 points.