AFC North: rapid reactions

Rapid Reaction: Colts 17, Ravens 15

November, 22, 2009
BALTIMORE—The Baltimore Ravens came extremely close to knocking the Indianapolis Colts from the undefeated ranks. But in the process of coming up short, Baltimore's playoff hopes are now in serious jeopardy.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw a crucial interception deep in Indianapolis territory with under three minutes to go to help the Colts seal a hard-fought, 17-15, victory at M&T Bank Stadium.

The usually cool Flacco came off the field and screamed in frustration after making arguably his worst decision of the season. Baltimore played a great game defensively against Peyton Manning and the high-powered Colts, as the Ravens were in prime position to take the lead late in the game.

Baltimore struggled mightily in the red zone as new kicker Billy Cundiff converted on five field goals. A touchdown on any of those opportunities could have changed the outcome for the Ravens. Cundiff also missed a sixth attempt.

Instead, Baltimore is 5-5 and likely will need to win five of its final six games to have a legitimate chance at the postseason. The Ravens will play the Pittsburgh Steelers, their biggest rival, next week at home in what is shaping up to be a must-win situation for Baltimore.

Rapid Reaction: Steelers 31, Browns 0

December, 28, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

The Pittsburgh Steelers crushed the Cleveland Browns, 31-0, to finish 12-4. But the win didn't do anything to ease concerns of Steelers fans who are wondering who their quarterback will be for the playoffs.

Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was carted off the field moments before halftime after taking a hit from Browns linebackers Willie McGinest and D'Qwell Jackson. Roethlisberger suffered a concussion and is being tested for neck injuries.

The win was the 11th in a row for Pittsburgh over the Browns. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin improved to 4-0 against Cleveland. But without a doubt, his risky decision to play his starters in a meaningless season finale will be a huge topic of discussion.

Pittsburgh has two weeks off before hosting a playoff game and hopes Roethlisberger and other key players will be healthy at that time.

The Browns (4-12), meanwhile, completed their third double-digit losing season in four years and will begin looking into changes for next season. Cleveland owner Randy Lerner is expected to meet with the coaching staff and the front office as early as Monday to discuss the future direction of the organization.

Rapid Reaction: Bengals 16, Chiefs 6

December, 28, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

In what has been another poor season in Cincinnati, the Bengals are probably one of the few non-playoff teams that doesn't want it to end.

Cincinnati capped the 2008 season on a three-game winning streak with a 16-6 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals (4-11-1) also beat the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns in consecutive weeks leading up to Sunday's game.

Bengals tailback Cedric Benson had another solid outing with 111 rushing yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Benson, who signed with Cincinnati during the season and will become a free agent, finished the year with 282 rushing yards in his last two games.

The winning streak also is a good sign for Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who appears safe in his position and gained good momentum for his team entering 2009.

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 41, Texans 13

November, 9, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

These Baltimore Ravens sure know how to score points lately.

Despite its reputation as a defensive team, Baltimore put up four touchdowns in the second half to blow out the Houston Texans, 41-13.

The Ravens are proving to be a legitimate threat in the AFC. They won their fourth game in a row and are averaging 33.5 points per game over that span.

Baltimore (6-3) is piling on wins at the right time. The Ravens have three of their next four games against tough NFC East opponents, starting next week on the road against the New York Giants, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles at home on Nov. 23.

But with six victories in their first nine games, the Ravens have set themselves up well for the November and December stretch.