NFL Picks Week 13: AFC North Will Be a Two-Team Race Following Division Matchups

Michael MillSenior Analyst IIIDecember 3, 2011

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 27, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

One of the biggest surprises this season has come out of the AFC North division.

Much like in past years, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens lead the way as the top two teams in the division.

They are currently 8-3 each with Baltimore holding the tiebreaker, putting the Ravens at the top of the standings.

This year, however, the Cincinnati Bengals are showing some life in the race. With their 7-4 record, they are one of the big shockers in the league this year.

In fact, if the season ended today, all three teams would make the playoffs. The Steelers and Bengals both hold the wild-card spots at this point.

That may not be the case after this weekend.

The AFC North will have two showdowns this week that will knock this race down to two teams.

The Ravens take on the Cleveland Browns and the Steelers will face off against the Bengals.

The primary success in the AFC North this year has come due to tough defensive play. All four teams are ranked in the top six in terms of total defense in the league.

However, only two teams present an offense that can do damage as well. Those will be the two teams that walk away with victories this weekend.

The Ravens' offense has been spotty and inconsistent. However, when they are on, they are a force to be reckoned with.

They will be able to do enough to get past the Browns. The offense may not put up a bunch of points, but the defense should shut down Colt McCoy and company.

The Steelers easily have the best offense in the group. Ben Roethlisberger is a top-10, if not a top-five, quarterback in the league.

He has been hooking up with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown in recent weeks, tearing apart the competition.

The Bengals have most of their defensive success at stopping the run. Wallace and Brown should still have solid showings.

With a Pittsburgh and Baltimore win, things will stay tied up at the top of the standings.

However, a loss will all but eliminate the Bengals from the hunt.

Their season isn't over though, since a wild-card berth is still very possible in a slanted AFC conference.