The week was fitting for the final AFC games of the year. The top two teams went head to head in a meaningless game that meant everything to one team, while the two eliminated teams squared off in a pride match.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
With a losing season on the horizon, the Steelers welcomed the Browns to Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon for a grudge match. Pittsburgh entered the game with a 7-8 record and their playoff hopes freshly taken from them at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals in the previous week. The Browns were 4-11 and hopeful for a sweep of the Steelers to end their 2012 campaign on the right foot.
However, Pittsburgh spent the last week licking their wounds and was ready for Cleveland when they took the field. The home team scored first in the matchup, but neither team got on the board until the second quarter. Shaun Suisham opened up the Pittsburgh scoring attack, but the Browns were quick to answer with a field goal of their own from kicker Phil Dawson on the team’s next possession.
The Steelers were anxious to put the Browns back in their place, though, and quickly scored seven more and headed into the half with the lead 10-3. In the second half, Roethlisberger threw two more touchdowns compared to Cleveland’s Thaddeus Lewis’ one and ran away with the game.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 10
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Both of these teams have already cemented playoff spots in the AFC post season race, making the game quite meaningless in the eyes of many NFL fans and officials. However, for Cincinnati this game meant the world. A victory on Sunday at home, meant the team finally beating their division foes since Andy Dalton and A.J. Green stepped on to the field. More importantly, a win would send the Bengals into the playoffs with a momentum that they hadn’t had in previous years.
In the middle of the first quarter, Baltimore pulled their starters to keep them safe and give them much-needed rest for the kickoff of the playoffs next week. It didn’t matter, though. Behind backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Ravens scored first in the game in the opening quarter of action on a two yard Anthony Allen run.
The Bengals, not to be outdone, gave Marvin Jones the first touchdown reception of his career on an 11 yard Andy Dalton pass play in the closing minute of the second quarter. With the game tied up 7-7 at the half, Cincinnati felt confident in removing their starters for the duration of the game.
The second half of play was all defense and Josh Brown for the Bengals. Brown hit three field goals and Carlos Dunlap intercepted Tyrod Taylor near the goal line, taking the ball in to the end zone and scoring another touchdown for the Bengals. At the end of the game, Cincinnati’s second string won the battle and cemented their position in the AFC North, tying the Ravens with a 10-6 record.
Final Score: Cincinnati 23, Baltimore 17
Final 2012 AFC North Standings
Baltimore Ravens – 10-6 – Division Champions
Cincinnati Bengals – 10-6 – Wild Card Berth
Pittsburgh Steelers – 8-8
Cleveland Browns – 5-11