AFC North: 2010 Week 15 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Ravens 30, Saints 24

December, 19, 2010
Here are some thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' victory against the New Orleans Saints:

What it means: The Ravens picked up another big win and improved to 10-4. Baltimore also continues to put pressure on the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) in the AFC North. The Steelers host the New York Jets later this evening. The Ravens will be in the playoffs either way. But they can improve their chances of playing at home in the postseason by continuing to win and hope Pittsburgh collapses.

What I liked: After struggling in the fourth quarter on defense this season, the Ravens got a big play by defensive lineman Cory Redding to seal the game. With the Saints attempting to tie or go for the win, Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata tipped a Drew Brees pass and Redding caught the first interception of his career. The AFC North blog also has been waiting for the Ravens to go back to Pro Bowl tailback Ray Rice, and this was the game to do it. Rice rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. He also caught five passes for another 80 yards, which was reminiscent of his production last season.

What I didn't like: As expected, New Orleans had a lot of success through the air against the Ravens. Brees threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns. His only bad play was the late interception. Saints receiver Lance Moore also made one of the best touchdown catches you will see all year over two Ravens in the back of the end zone in the second half. Baltimore got very little production from its receivers in this game. Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Derrick Mason each had just one reception.

What's next: The Ravens remain in the running for the AFC North title and will end the season with two division games. Next week Baltimore will travel to play against the Cleveland Browns, then end the regular season at home against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Wrap-up: Bengals 19, Browns 17

December, 19, 2010
Here are some thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' victory over the Cleveland Browns:

What it means: The Bengals broke their NFL-high 10-game losing streak against the same team that started it in October. Despite plenty of speculation about the future of the coaching staff and key players, Cincinnati stayed focused and improved to 3-11. Meanwhile, this is another ugly loss for the Browns (5-9), who have now fallen to the woeful Bengals and Bills in back-to-back weeks. Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini is on the hot seat and these two losses will weigh heavily against him in the eyes of Browns president Mike Holmgren.

What I liked: With the cold weather, Cincinnati went back to last year's formula that made the team successful. Bengals tailback Cedric Benson looked energized and rushed for a season-high 150 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. Cincinnati also got rare contributions from young receivers Andre Caldwell (four catches for 89 yards) and Jerome Simpson (two catches for 30 yards), who have been M.I.A. this season. For Cleveland, rookie quarterback Colt McCoy handled the winter conditions pretty well and completed 19 of 25 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Browns receiver Brian Robiskie also had his second quality game of the season with five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.

What I didn't like: For one of the few times this season, Cleveland was physically dominated in the trenches. The Browns couldn't stop Cincinnati's running game and couldn't run the ball effectively on offense, which was the difference in this game. Peyton Hillis ran for just 59 yards, as the Browns had just one rushing first down in the game. There's not much to dislike from the Bengals' perspective after finally getting back in the win column, other than the fact that winning hurts the team's draft position.

What's next: The Bengals will host the San Diego Chargers in the final home game of the season at Paul Brown Stadium. Barring an unexpected surge in ticket sales, it will be the fourth consecutive home blackout in Cincinnati. The Browns will end the season with back-to-back home games against AFC North rivals. First, Cleveland will host the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 26, then end the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 2.