AFC North: Schaub or Clausen for Ravens, More

In this week's AFC North Recap, a banged-up Matt Schaub may give way to Jimmy Clausen in Baltimore, Antonio Brown gets fined and awarded for the same play and Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has a request for Santa Claus

It looks as though the Baltimore Ravens may be experimenting with a two-quarterback offense when the team hosts the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. With now-starter Matt Schaub (in for the injured Joe Flacco) banged up following the team’s Week 13 loss to the Miami Dolphins, there may be room for backup Jimmy Clausen to take the field, though he’s not been named the starter for Sunday just yet.

Schaub did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, reeling from knee, shoulder and head ailments. Though cleared by the NFL’s concussion protocol, Schaub is still ailing, and Clausen has been getting first-team reps during the week. 

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday about the situation that, “Maybe we’ll play them both, we’ll just see how it goes.” But with Schaub again not practicing on Thursday, it’s looking more and more likely that Clausen and Clausen alone could be the quarterback on the field for Baltimore this week. 

Schaub hasn’t ruled himself out yet, saying, “I’m gearing all my mindset and everything towards Sunday. We have to take it a day at a time. We have to see how things heal up, how the health feels and go forward from there. But right now, we’re taking it day by day, hour by hour.” But Schaub hasn’t been all that helpful to the Ravens over the last two weeks. Though Baltimore has won one of the two games he’s started, Schaub has thrown only three touchdowns to four interceptions, two of which have been pick-sixes. Meanwhile, Clausen appeared in two games for the Chicago Bears this year, completing 23 of his 40 pass attempts, for 184 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception, before joining the Ravens in Week 11 following Flacco’s injury.

Even if Schaub does play, Harbaugh is not concerned that Clausen has been getting the first-team work this week, saying, “It’s good to get Jimmy the reps anyway. Jimmy needs the reps more than Matt does.” Harbaugh also reiterated that Schaub is indeed the team’s starter and will play if he can. Clausen is the backup and the only way he’ll take the field this week is if Schaub is too hurt to play, though offensive coordinator Marc Trestman did say the team does have a package of plays for Clausen, meaning he could get into the game on a limited basis regardless.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Steelers WR Antonio Brown Fined, Awarded

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown had a big day against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13, catching eight passes on 11 targets for 118 yards and two scores and returning a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. And it was for the latter that Brown was handed an award this week—and a fine.

Brown was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the punt return score. But he was also fined $11,576 for his goalpost celebration which followed, for which Brown was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct via “using the goalpost as a prop.” He jumped onto the padded post, tried to hang on and fell onto his back. Brown said after the game that he “was full of excitement,” leading to the unorthodox celebration.

This is the third straight season that Brown, the NFL’s top receiver, has scored a touchdown on a punt return. It is also the third time he was named the conference’s top special-teams player, earning the award in 2011 and 2014.

Cincinnati Bengals: Bengals TE Tyler Eifert Meets with Santa

On Tuesday night, the Cincinnati Bengals’ day off, tight end Tyler Eifert had an important meeting set up: With Santa Claus. Eifert sat on St. Nick’s lap and, according to ESPN’s Coley Harvey, asked him for one thing this year—a Super Bowl ring.

The Bengals are the top team in the AFC North, with a 10-2 record. They are also currently the AFC’s top seed, giving them a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage should they stay that way. The Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers this week and, if they win, will be AFC North champions and one step closer to making Eifert’s wish come true.

This season, Eifert has caught 46 passes for 522 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he did miss last week’s game against the Cleveland Browns while still recovering from a stinger he suffered the week before. He’s not sure if he will be playing this week, but it’s likely that the request will stand regardless.

The Bengals have reached the playoffs each of the last four seasons but have yet to win a single postseason game. In fact, it’s been since 1990 that the Bengals have won a playoff game. Perhaps Eifert’s request will bring a bit of holiday magic to the Bengals and get them that elusive Super Bowl victory.

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