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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Week 16 power rankings: AFC North

By James Walker

After a 3-1 week in the division, here is how the AFC North fared in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings:

Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)

Last week: No. 7

Current ranking: No. 7

Analysis: The Bengals didn't budge after a strong showing on the road in defeat to the San Diego Chargers. Cincinnati lost, 27-24, thanks to a last-second field goal by Nate Kaeding. Even more impressive is the Bengals were playing with heavy hearts following last week’s passing of receiver Chris Henry. Cincinnati has lost two in a row, but there is no reason to panic. The Bengals can clinch a playoff spot and the AFC North division with a win Sunday over the lowly Kansas City Chiefs (3-11).

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

Last week: No. 12

Current ranking: No. 11

Analysis: The Ravens are starting to put everything together on both sides of the football, and it’s coming at the right time. After two straight wins over the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, Baltimore comes in at No. 11 this week. The Ravens are back to playing playoff-style football. They are running the ball well, passing with efficiency, and playing great defense. If the Ravens stick to this formula, they could be a problem for the rest of the league down the stretch.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)

Last week: No. 19

Current ranking: No. 15

Analysis: The Steelers broke a five-game losing streak in dramatic fashion with a last-second win over the Green Bay Packers. The victory moved the Steelers up four spots this week to No. 15. The fourth-quarter defense once again was a major concern for Pittsburgh. But the Steelers’ offense was tremendous with 537 total yards. Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes are on thin ice. But to have a pulse after losing five straight is the best the Steelers can ask for at this point in the season.

Cleveland Browns (3-11)

Last week: No. 29

Current ranking: No. 28

Analysis: The Browns continue to take baby steps up ESPN.com’s Power Rankings. Cleveland moved up one spot to No. 28 this week after winning its second game in a row against the Chiefs. It was the Browns' first two-game winning streak of the year. This is decent progress considering the Browns recently spent five straight weeks rated No. 32. With Mike Holmgren taking over as the team’s president, it will be important for everyone involved with the Browns to finish strong. Holmgren will be watching closely to see who he wants to keep for 2010.