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Monday, November 5, 2012
Wake-up: Two-team race in AFC North

By Jamison Hensley

CLEVELAND -- The AFC North has become a two-team race now. The Baltimore Ravens (6-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) have clearly separated themselves from the Ohio teams at the midway point of the season.

With fourth-quarter comebacks Sunday, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have positioned themselves for an eight-week battle for the division title. The Ravens hold a one-game lead over the Steelers for first place.

The Bengals (3-5) and Browns (2-7) aren't mathematically eliminated but the chances of them threatening the Ravens or Steelers are slim. Cincinnati has lost four straight to fall three games back of Baltimore. Cleveland trails the Ravens by 4.5 games.

Here's what the local writers are saying about their teams (in order of the current standings):

RAVENS: The Ravens keep finding ways to win, but The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston thinks this team needs to do more to get far in the postseason. "At this point, the Ravens have enough playmakers and talent to win most games, and they'll get contributions from the poor teams like the Browns," Preston wrote. "But the question is will this team improve enough to beat a Houston or an improved New England team in the postseason?"

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook writes how Isaac Redman is the latest to shine in the Steelers backfield. "A football team has a controversy when it has three guys at one position who can't play well enough to help it win," Cook wrote. "What the Steelers have at running back is a luxury."

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty doesn't like hearing from the Bengals that they put together a good effort after losses. "The standings say the Bengals are 3-5. There is no Tried Hard category," Daugherty wrote. "Maybe this team is not as talented as we’ve thought. In that case, let’s hear it for great effort and we can all wait ‘til next year."

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw believes the Browns should've punted the ball on fourth-and-two with almost four minutes remaining and down by a touchdown. "Until the previous Baltimore drive aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty, the Browns had limited the Ravens to next to nothing in the second half," Shaw said. "The Browns had two timeouts and the two-minute warning. Punt and there's time to hold 'em, ask Josh Cribbs to provide field position and give the offense one more try."