It will take one more week to settle the AFC North title.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh both won yesterday to stay tied for first place at 11-4, though the Ravens’ sweep of the season series puts them in the driver’s seat. A win at Cincinnati next Sunday would give Baltimore the division, a first-round bye, and a home playoff game - two if the Patriots lose to Buffalo. The Steelers can win the AFC North with a win over Cleveland and a Ravens loss.
The Ravens completed their first unbeaten season at home, defeating Cleveland, 20-14, behind two touchdown passes from Joe Flacco. Ray Rice ran for 87 yards and caught a scoring pass. Baltimore led, 17-0, at halftime.
“We are at our best when we are at [home] and our fans are rocking,’’ said linebacker Terrell Suggs. “So we definitely need a home playoff game, by any means necessary.’’
Josh Cribbs had a career-high 84-yard punt return for a touchdown for the Browns (4-11). But Cleveland generated very little offense and was guilty of questionable play calling, bad clock management, and untimely penalties in its fifth straight loss.
With no timeouts left, the Browns lined up on defense after the two-minute warning with the Ravens facing a fourth and 2 at the Cleveland 37. It appeared obvious that Flacco was merely hoping to draw the Browns offside. As the play clock moved close to zero, Cleveland tackle Phil Taylor jumped across the line of scrimmage to give Baltimore a first down, and the Ravens then ran out the clock.
Steelers 27, Rams 0
Starting in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger, 37-year-old Charlie Batch was efficient for host Pittsburgh in passing for 208 yards. Rashard Mendenhall ran for 116 yards and a touchdown, and John Clay and Ike Redman also scored for the Steelers.
A badly sprained left ankle forced Roethlisberger to watch from the sideline as the team’s third quarterback. Pittsburgh hardly needed him. The league’s top-ranked defense had little trouble dominating the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense as St. Louis (2-13) managed just 232 total yards while getting shut out for the second time in 20 days.
“It’s about playing good ball at the right time,’’ defensive end Brett Keisel said. “We need to build off this win and hopefully get one next week and carry that into the dance.’’
Batch completed 15 of 22 passes and even got the ball downfield on a couple of occasions, including a 46-yard pass to Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter that set up Mendenhall’s 1-yard plunge that put Pittsburgh ahead, 20-0.
Bengals 23, Cardinals 16
Andy Dalton threw a pair of touchdown passes and host Cincinnati withstood a fourth-quarter comeback by Arizona to move a game ahead of the Jets for the final AFC wild card. The Bengals (9-6) can clinch a postseason berth with a win at home next week over Baltimore.
Dalton threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham and a 19-yarder to Jerome Simpson, who did a somersault over a defender and landed on both feet in the end zone. Dalton joined Peyton Manning (26), Charlie Conerly (22), and Dan Marino (20) as the only NFL rookies to throw for 20 touchdowns.
Trailing, 23-0, heading into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals (7-8) nearly pulled it out, getting a pair of touchdown passes by John Skelton and then Jay Feely’s field goal with 3:16 left. But two more possessions produced no points, and Arizona’s four-game winning streak and playoff chances came to an end.
Raiders 16, Chiefs 13
Oakland (8-7) jumped into a tie for the AFC West lead while taking host Kansas City out of the division discussion. Sebastian Janikowski’s 36-yard field goal 2:13 into overtime was set up by Carson Palmer’s perfectly thrown 53-yard pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Kyle Orton threw for 300 yards for Kansas City, including a 49-yard toss to Dexter McCluster that set up a short TD throw to Dwayne Bowe with 1:02 left in regulation to tie the game. However, the Chiefs (6-9) missed out on avoiding overtime when Ryan Succop’s 49-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Trevor Scott as time ran out.
Coming off a win over Green Bay in his first start, Orton threw a pair of interceptions.
Eagles 20, Cowboys 7
At Arlington, Texas, Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes to lead Philadelphia over Dallas in a game that had all the intensity of a preseason matchup. The anticipated showdown became somewhat meaningless midway through the first quarter when the Giants finished off their win over the Jets - which eliminated the Eagles from the playoffs and turned the Dallas-New York game next weekend into a showdown to decide the NFC East title.
The Cowboys (8-7) sat quarterback Tony Romo after one series and running back Felix Jones after two. Before leaving, Romo banged his passing hand on a defender’s helmet. X-rays showed no damage.
Vick threw a touchdown pass on the opening series and again just before halftime. Alex Henery kicked field goals of 43 and 51 yards for the Eagles (7-8), who came within seven seconds of a shutout.
49ers 19, Seahawks 17
David Akers kicked four field goals, including a 39-yarder with 2:57 left to give San Francisco the lead, and the 49ers held on to win in Seattle.
Larry Grant sealed the win by forcing Tarvaris Jackson’s fumble that was recovered by Donte Whitner with 1:07 left. San Francisco, which already clinched the NFC West, remained in position for the No. 2 seed in the conference and a first-round playoff bye.
Akers set an NFL record with his 42d field goal of the season.
Vikings 33, Redskins 26
After losing Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder to injuries on the first two offensive plays of the second half, visiting Minnesota took off behind their backups. Toby Gerhart set up a touchdown with a 67-yard run, and Joe Webb threw for two scores and ran for another as the Vikings (3-12) snapped a six-game skid.
Webb completed 4 of 5 passes for 84 yards and ran five times for 34 yards. Gerhart had 109 yards on 11 carries. The Vikings hadn’t lost seven in a row in the same season since their expansion year of 1961.
Washington (5-10) has lost six straight at home for the first time since 1994. Rookie Evan Royster ran for 132 yards on 19 carries and Rex Grossman threw for two scores, but the quarterback also had two turnovers.
Titans 23, Jaguars 17
Matt Hasselbeck threw for 240 of his 350 yards in the first half in Tennessee’s home finale and the Titans (8-7) kept their faint playoff hopes alive by taking care of Jacksonville (4-11).
The Titans’ Jared Cook had a 55-yard TD catch and 169 yards receiving, a franchise high for a tight end.
Panthers 48, Buccaneers 16
Cam Newton broke Manning’s NFL rookie record for yards passing (3,893) and set a franchise record with a 91-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell, and host Carolina (6-9) scored on eight of its first nine possessions against Tampa Bay (4-11), which lost its ninth straight.