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Game on: AFC North Division now heating up

December 6, 2012
By RICH GIBSON - Times Leader Sports Writer (rgibson@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Don't look now but the AFC North is taking some interesting twists and turns.

Last weekend's unexpected Steelers' victory at Baltimore reduced the first-place Ravens' margin of error somewhat, although John Harbaugh's club maintains a reasonably healthy two-game cushion entering this weekend's action.

Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, meanwhile, own identical 7-5 marks with both expected to prevail on their home turf Sunday. A Dec. 23 showdown rematch between the rivals unfolds in the Steel City.

Mike Tomlin's Black & Gold should be happy to be playing at Heinz Field this weekend against a clearly-inferior San Diego (4-8) combine which is 0-2 in two eastbound road outings, including a 7-6 loss at Cleveland.

The Bengals host unpredictable 6-6 Dallas in an outcome Marvin Lewis' team could conceivably lose.

At 4-8, Cleveland boasts a two-game win streak which should be extended by one against visiting Kansas City.

This column enjoyed a rare 12-4 success ratio last week, correctly tabbing the 23-20 final between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Of course, our ill-advised lack of faith in Charlie Batch resulted in a Ravens' selection.

TONIGHT'S GAME

DENVER AT OAKLAND. One of the week's superior mismatches should prove all that and more, though Peyton Manning may find it hard getting himself motivated. BRONCOS, 27-17.

SUNDAY GAMES

BALTIMORE AT WASHINGTON. Here's a second successive difficult test for the Dirty Birds with RG III coming off a big Monday night win over NY's Giants. Flip a coin. RAVENS, 20-17.

ATLANTA AT CAROLINA. 11-1 Falcons must stay focused in what could be a more competitive matchup than projected. FALCONS, 28-24.

ST. LOUIS AT BUFFALO. Rams won their playoff game last week vs. 49ers. Go with with home team here. BILLS, 30-17.

NEW YORK JETS AT JACKSONVILLE. Jets' uncertainty at QB has all the makings of our Upset Special. JAGUARS, 21-14.

PHILADELPHIA AT TAMPA BAY. Fluttering Eagles in extensive freefall despite game effort last weekend at Dallas. BUCS, 31-20.

SAN DIEGO AT PITTSBURGH. On paper, a decisive Steelers' conquest regardless of QB. But expect Black & Gold to do just enough to get by. STEELERS, 23-16.

KANSAS CITY AT CLEVELAND. Three-game winning streak seems all but done deal on the lakefront. BROWNS, 28-13.

DALLAS AT CINCINNATI. Stakes high for both playoff hopefuls at Paul Brown Stadium. May well come down to final possession. BENGALS, 21-17.

TENNESSEE AT INDIANAPOLIS. Postseason-determined Indy bidding for ninth win with likely rookie-of-the-year Andrew Luck in control. COLTS, 37-17.

CHICAGO AT MINNESOTA. Black & Blue Division special. Another potential down-to-the-wire finish. BEARS, 20-13.

MIAMI AT SAN FRANCISCO. Niners need bounce-back victory following last weekend's OT upset loss at St. Louis. 49ERS, 27-13.

NEW ORLEANS AT NEW YORK GIANTS. Drew Brees and company have run out of time while G-Men face near must-win situation. GIANTS, 34-24.

ARIZONA AT SEATTLE. Seahawks and Russell Wilson plenty serious regarding 2013 playoff date. SEAHAWKS, 24-10.

SUNDAY NIGHT

DETROIT AT GREEN BAY. Key game for Pack in terms of postseason pecking order. PACKERS, 38-27.

MONDAY NIGHT

HOUSTON AT NEW ENGLAND. Potential shootout should be ratings' bonanza between pair of opponents expecting to play into late January. Incentive edge here goes to the visitors. TEXANS, 31-28.

LAST WEEK: 12-4. SEASON: 116-71. UPSET SPECIALS: 3-10.

Gibson can be reached at rgibson@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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