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Monday, December 3, 2012
Wake-up: Ravens losing grip on division?

By Jamison Hensley

It's a strange Sunday in the AFC North when the only team that loses in the division is the one leading the division. The Ravens watched their cushion in the AFC North shrink after the Steelers beat them with Charlie Batch and the two Ohio teams (Bengals and Browns) won on the West Coast.

Baltimore (9-3) now has a two-game lead over the Steelers and Bengals, both 7-5, with four weeks remaining. Is there any way these teams could catch the Ravens? "I'm sure they're probably going to win the division," Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said. "I can't see them losing two more games."

Foote may not want to give the title to the Ravens so quickly. If Baltimore loses at Washington on Sunday, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati can close to within one game by winning. The Steelers play host to the Chargers, and the Bengals are home against Dallas.

It's far from an easy road remaining for the Ravens. After the road game at Washington (5-6), the Ravens' final three games are: home against Denver (9-3) and the New York Giants (7-4) before playing at Cincinnati.

Here's what the local columnists are saying about their teams ...

RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston called the Ravens' loss to the Steelers an embarrassing one to an ancient quarterback. "Some say Charlie Batch was was playing in the NFL when there were no facemasks on helmets," Preston wrote. "There is speculation he has filed for Medicare and Social Security. But Batch, 37, outperformed his much younger and sometimes more talented counterpart Joe Flacco."

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook believes it was defensive deja vu for the Steelers. "Late in the 2010 season, safety Troy Polamalu's fourth-quarter strip-sack of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco brought the Steelers back from the dead in a 13-10 win that led to the AFC North Division title and a trip to Super Bowl XLV," Cook wrote. "Sunday night, James Harrison's fourth-quarter strip-sack of Flacco led to the Steelers' tying touchdown and a win that left them with a 7-5 record, one spot ahead of Cincinnati for the final wild-card spot in the AFC."

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty thinks the Bengals showed something by winning despite turning the ball over three times. "The Bengals are learning what good teams know: You can win if you don’t play your best, so long as you keep your wits and play a little better than the other guys," Daugherty wrote. "You can win four in a row after losing four in a row, and shove your way back into the playoff photo."

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto feels the Browns showed their true grit in ending the 12-game road losing streak. "Just like last week's 20-14 victory over Pittsburgh was hardly a football Picasso, this also was a game far more about grit than being great," Pluto wrote. "But it's a victory. It's a winning streak. It's a reason to keep watching the men in the orange helmets. Progress isn't always pretty or steady. But on this Sunday afternoon, when I bet Browns fans had a sad, sinking feeling in the second half, their favorite team gave them a reason to smile."