AFC North Power Rankings Analysis

The AFC North had interesting and exciting games in Week 15. Here is how it impacted ESPN.com's Power Rankings:

Baltimore Ravens (10-4)

Cumulative vote: No. 4

Walker's vote: No. 3

Analysis: The Ravens jumped one spot to No. 4 after beating the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, 30-24. There was some disagreement on the panel about the Ravens this week. NFC West blogger Mike Sando and I both voted Baltimore No. 3, while ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton and AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky voted the Ravens No. 7 and No. 6, respectively. The end result was the Philadelphia Eagles beating out Baltimore at No. 3 after pulling off an exciting, last-second win over the New York Giants.

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4)

Cumulative vote: No. 6

Walker's vote: No. 7

Analysis: The Steelers dropped three places to No. 6 after a 22-17 loss to the New York Jets. I voted Pittsburgh the lowest on the panel at No. 7, perhaps because I'm closest to the situation. I saw a lot of flaws Sunday, particularly on special teams and the defense without safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers looked very beatable, and I took the "Polamalu factor" into account with my vote until he returns. Regardless, Pittsburgh has a good chance to get back on track Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers (2-12), who were voted No. 32 again this week.

Cleveland Browns (5-9)

Cumulative vote: No. 22

Walker's vote: No. 27

Analysis: This is the second week in a row my vote has been fairly distant from the cumulative tally. Perhaps it's another case of me being close enough to the situation to notice all of Cleveland's flaws. I just don't see this team bringing the same energy and fight lately, which essentially was the point made by quarterback Colt McCoy and tailback Peyton Hillis after suffering back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. Both opponents came in with just two wins but looked liked the hungrier team. McCoy's return from a high ankle sprain is a bright spot. But it's going to take a motivated team effort by Cleveland to beat Baltimore and Pittsburgh these next two weeks.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-11)

Cumulative vote: No. 30

Walker's vote: No. 29

Analysis: The Bengals moved up one spot to No. 30 after breaking their NFL-high 10-game losing streak. Cincinnati went back to last year's formula of running the football and playing tough defense, and it looked much better last week. The Bengals have the talent to be a spoiler but could rarely put together four quarters of solid football this year. Cincinnati has a chance to pick up a quality win against the San Diego Chargers (8-6), who are in a must-win situation and fighting for their playoff lives.