AFC North Schedule for Baltimore and Pittsburgh Really Favors the Fans

Mark OristanoContributor IIDecember 7, 2011

Old Friends Meet Again
Old Friends Meet AgainJared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are tied heading into the last four games of the regular season.  So, let’s see how the AFC North stacks up, head to head, schedule-wise, for the upcoming games.

Thursday night the Steelers host the Browns in what seems like almost a sure Pittsburgh win, assuming the Steelers terrorize Colt McCoy into making the usual number of mistakes. 

Sunday, the Ravens host the Colts, which shouldn’t be any more difficult than a training camp scrimmage.  Although, the strangest things happen in this league when you least expect them to.  The Colts are, of course, winless to date.  Which means they have nothing to lose and may play the game of their lives and damage their chances in the Luck sweepstakes.  Or, they may get blown out by 30.  But common sense says both Baltimore and Pittsburgh win this week.

Having played Thursday, the Steelers get a much-needed 10-day break before they have to fly west to San Francisco to take on the Niners, and this makes for an interesting scenario.  The Niners have already clinched a playoff spot.  (How strange did it feel typing THAT sentence!) 

Obviously, a rare Steeler appearance at Candlestick will bring out the best and the beast in the Niners fans.  It will be interesting to see how Harbaugh-west psychs his team up for a game that may mean more to his brother than to himself.  Give the Steelers an edge only because they’ve played in many more meaningful games than have the Niners.

The Ravens will also be west that week, playing in San Diego, on a regular week of rest.  The onus will be on the Ravens D to shut down Rivers, but as the Chargers have pretty much cratered after being a lot of people’s preseason faves, we’ll chalk this up to Baltimore.

In these last two weeks is where things may turn.  The Ravens are facing the Ohio duo, the Browns with a quarterback who disappoints, and the Bengals, with a QB who may wind up a superstar.   The Cleveland game is in Baltimore, the Bengals in Cincy. 

Perhaps it’s because I’m a TCU grad, but I think Andy Dalton spoils things for the Ravens in the final game, with a balanced offensive performance that takes Cincy into next season primed to join the list of AFC North powerhouses.  (Or should that be “powerhomes?”)

Birds & Tigers
Birds & TigersLarry French/Getty Images

The Steelers' last two are hosting St. Louis and in Cleveland.  St. Louis should be a piece of cake.  In Cleveland… well, strange things happen.  It would not be a surprise to see the Browns end their season on a very up note, wrapping up Big Ben like a fast food burger for several sacks.

So, each team goes 3-1 over the last four and wind up tied for the division, which goes to Baltimore thanks to the two Ravens regular season wins over the Steelers.  Which make it possible to then hope for a Baltimore-Pittsburgh AFC title game, and all that that implies. 

And as we all know, your last game is not nearly as important in the NFL as your next game.  The Steelers, with big game flare, win the Super Bowl spot in a thriller. 

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