The AFC North in some ways has changed quite a bit over the past few years. Some of the familiar offensive playmakers we got used to seeing have long retired, and the even increasing rule changes surrounding the defense have made the famous hard hitting battles those AFC North division games would give us a thing of the past. Still the new and young players in the division such as Joe Burrow, Jamar Chase, Lamar Jackson, etc have given us plenty of entertainment.
The past 2 years it’s been the Bengals reigning supreme at the end of the season, will this season be any different
1st place- Baltimore Ravens, 13-4, Losses: vs Bengals, @Jaguars, @49ers, vs Dolphins
The Ravens will finally return to division supremacy, winning the AFC North for the first time since the 2019 season. The Ravens finally got their long awaited wishes with the firing of offensive coordinator Greg Roman and the acquisition of a bonafide outside wide receiver in Odell Beckham Junior. There’s not to many question surrounding the Ravens roster besides the ability to stay healthy. They have one of the leagues best defense who after a shaky start to last year had remarkable close to the year finished 3rd overall in defensive rankings. They have one of the best tight ends in the game in Mark Andrews, a 3 headed monster at running back, and of course the leagues best kicker. The luxury of getting to play a 2nd place schedule as well as playing the AFC South will lead to a very productive year in the win column.
2nd place- Cincinnati Bengals, 12-5, Losses: @Browns, vs Ravens, vs Bills, @Steelers, @Chiefs
Sorry Bengals fans but the streak ends here. 12-5 is still very good but not good enough to win the division this year and may not even guarantee you a wildcard spot in this wild AFC. The Bengals come into this season basically the same. The only significant loss was safety Jessie Bates going to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. They have done a great job improving their over these past 2 years, they have one of the best wide receiving cores in the league, and an undisputed to top 3 quarterback. They retained their defensive mastermind coordinator Lou Anarumo for another year and are poised to “run it back” for the 3rd straight year. There problem doesn’t stem from anything on the team as they don’t have any ‘weaknesses” per say, more so just having a harder schedule than the Ravens. On top of their own division with quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson, they all have al the 1st place division winners from last year meaning they have to face Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes as well. The Bengals are great but I be willing to bet they lose 3-4 of those games.
3rd place- Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-7, Losses: vs Ravens, @Rams, vs Jags, @Browns, vs Patriots, vs Bengals, @Ravens
The Steeler had a rough start to the year until they finally gave their rookie quarterback a chance to sling the rock. With Pickett leading the helm they went 8-2 after the bye week with 2 losses being by a combined 9 points to their division foes Ravens and Bengals. With young returning playmakers in running back Najee Harris and outside wide receiver George Pickens the Steelers are setup to score plenty of points on offense this year. On defense the remain anchored by 2 of the leagues best pass rushed in Cameron Heyward and TJ Watt, along with Minkah Fitzpatrick holding down the free safety position. Questions for the Steelers would be if we would see continued improvement in their offensive line, and defensive secondary. However, a 3rd place schedule will benefit the Steelers mightily and propel them to a 10-7 record.
4th place- Cleveland Browns, 8-9, Losses: @Steelers, vs Titans, vs Ravens, vs 49ers, @Seahawks, @Ravens, @Broncos, @Jets, vs Bengals
A team defined by to many questions and not enough answers. Is Watson still good? Have they figured out the defense? Can the line pass protect? Browns unfortunately fall victim to playing in a great division with teams with years of chemistry and in a conference with great quarterbacks. Watson looked nothing like his old self last year and even if he was to return to that form that still may not be good enough. The Browns have to show me before I think any different