There are three AFC North teams squarely in the playoff hunt right now. The Ravens only need to win two of their last four to win the division, while the Steelers and Bengals are going to come down to the wire. I’ll break down what each team needs to do to get one step closer to making the playoffs in this week’s keys to victory.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens head to Washington to take on RG3 and the streaking Redskins. The key to victory for Baltimore is throwing the ball. The Redskins have the 4th best rushing defense in the NFL, so I don’t see Ray Rice running up and down the field at will. Likewise, the Ravens defense hasn’t shown the ability to stop the run and Washington has the best rushing attack in the NFL, so they are going to put some points up. However, the Redskins secondary isn’t particularly good. If the Ravens want to win, they are going to need Joe Flacco to throw the ball down field and expose the holes in that secondary.
Pittsburgh Steelers: After coming off a massive win on the road in Baltimore, the Steelers head home to host the struggling Chargers. The good news for the Steelers is that Big Ben will be back under center. This week’s key to victory works for the rest of the season, too. The Steelers must keep Roethlisberger on his feet. If he gets hit and hurt again, the Steelers are done. If not, they could be one of the best teams in the AFC.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are surging toward the playoffs. The next team in their way is the Dallas Cowboys. The key to victory for Cincy is going to be running the ball. The Cowboys have had a very successful year in stopping the pass, but not so much when it comes to stopping the run. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a monster for the last month. If the Bengals can keep running the ball successfully, they will beat the Cowboys and maybe even make the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns look to make it three straight wins as the Kansas City Chiefs come to town. The key to victory against the Chiefs this week is forcing turnovers. Kansas City is -21 on the season in turnover margin, easily the worst in the NFL. If the Browns can cause a couple turnovers they have a great shot at winning their 3rd straight game.