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Friday, December 26, 2008
Audibles: AFC North Week 17 preview


Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Cleveland Browns (4-11) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4), 1 p.m.

In Week 16 against Tennessee, Pittsburgh lost for the first time in six weeks, but the Steelers already had clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC. With their eyes on the second season, the Steelers enter this game hoping to avoid injuries to key players before the playoffs.

Cleveland, meanwhile, hopes to defeat its biggest rival for the first time in 11 meetings. A win also would end a five-game losing streak for the Browns in which they have failed to score an offensive touchdown. Trying to break this streak will be new Browns quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who is Cleveland's fourth starting quarterback this year.

At the beginning of the season, many expected this to be a big game with playoff implications, but Cleveland imploded in yet another double-digit losing season. Expect changes to be made throughout the organization after this game.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-11-1), 1 p.m.

The suddenly hot Cincinnati Bengals will play host to the struggling Kansas City Chiefs in a battle of cellar dwellers in their respective divisions.

Cincinnati is coming off impressive wins over the Washington Redskins and Cleveland for its first two-game winning streak of the season. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis deserves credit for having his team playing hard down the stretch.

Although Lewis couldn't care less, the flip side is the Bengals are falling down the NFL draft board with their recent winning streak. Cincinnati held the No. 2 overall pick two weeks ago but now holds the No. 4 pick. With another victory Sunday, the Bengals have the potential to drop as low as seventh, depending on the outcome of other games.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) at Baltimore Ravens (10-5), 4:15 p.m.

Baltimore is coming off its biggest win of the season, on the road against the Dallas Cowboys, and needs a win Sunday to secure the final wild-card slot in the AFC. If the Ravens lose, a spot for an AFC East team could open.

If the Ravens are going to win Sunday, rookie quarterback Joe Flacco must improve his play at home. Despite his stellar play on the road, Flacco has thrown for one touchdown and three interceptions in his past two games at M&T Bank Stadium.

Defensively, Baltimore holds a league-best 34-game streak of holding rushers under 100 yards. That will be key against Jacksonville, which is at its best when running the football.

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