Steelers, Ravens or Bengals? Good luck figuring out the AFC North

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 01: Head Coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals talk at the end of the game at Heinz Field on November 1, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 01: Head Coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals talk at the end of the game at Heinz Field on November 1, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Did you hear the one about how the Bengals are less than a game out of first place in the AFC North one week into November?

No? Well, it’s a good one!

It goes like this: The Ravens started out as the early front-runners before losing four in a row.

The Steelers looked ready to run away with it, but they lost two in a row without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

Then they lost again when he returned Sunday. At Baltimore.

That game saw the Ravens snap the aforementioned four-game losing streak, leaving both teams 4-4 at the midway point of their seasons.

The Bengals, who were off this weekend, sit just behind them at 3-4-1 despite winning only one game in October.

Pretty funny, right? Except it’s no joke.

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Cincinnati has been outscored by 22 points on the season and turned in more lackluster showings than inspiring performances, but the Bengals are well within striking distance for another division crown under Marvin Lewis.

Cincinnati hasn’t played the Ravens yet and has a rematch with Pittsburgh on Dec. 18.

That gives them the potential to do a lot to help themselves – if they can continue fine-tuning the offense and patch some major holes in the defense sooner than later over the next eight weeks.

So who is going to come out of this quagmire?

Well, the Steelers probably still have to be considered the favorite. They have already beaten the Bengals, and it’s easy to give them a pass for losing to division leaders Dallas and New England with Roethlisberger nursing an injury.

They beat a good Kansas City team but were throttled by the so-so Dolphins and Eagles.

Meanwhile, the Bengals and Ravens have combined to win zero games over teams above .500 at this point in the season.

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Cincinnati has beaten the Dolphins, though, for what that’s worth… which is probably not much.

Maybe that’s disrespectful to the Ravens, but they will get their chance to earn it on the field, something they got a head start on Sunday by downing Pittsburgh.

Could be a bumpy ride to the finish.