The NFL season is less than two weeks away! To lead off for the AFC, we’ve got our full rankings and predictions for the AFC North.
Excitement in Cincinnati should be as high as ever coming into the 2023 NFL season. The Bengals are back-to-back AFC North champions and have met the Chiefs in the AFC Championship twice in a row. All the same weapons remain on the offence, and Joe Burrow is entering the final year of his rookie deal. If he balls out this season, he’ll be getting PAID. Although both sides of the ball are always important, Cincy will only go as far as this offence goes, and over the past two years, that’s been pretty far. As long as their defence can find middle ground statistically (like they have in the last two years), Cincy will remain a big threat in the very competitive AFC.
Has Baltimore finally given Lamar Jackson the weapons he needs to get the Ravens deep into the playoffs? The fans of this storied franchise sure hope so. Over the last five years, Baltimore has made the postseason four times, but hasn’t made it past the divisional round once. John Harbaugh’s team has always competed and been one of the best on the defensive side of the ball, but they’ve also lacked star power outside of Jackson on offence recently. Now, the Ravens have added Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers to help take the passing game to new heights. With these guys alongside Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews, Lamar certainly has some talent around him now. Will it move the Ravens past the Chiefs, Bills, or Bengals? We’d think probably not, but only time will tell.
The Steelers haven’t won a playoff game in five years, which is the franchise’s longest stretch without one in more than thirty. For a team and city so used to success, it’s been a weird spot to be in for the last few seasons. Longtime signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger was beloved but was certainly not his best by the end of his career. Then last season, the Steelers had a new starter at QB for the first time since ‘04 in Kenny Pickett. Pickett wasn’t terrific statistically, but he did show some very exciting things. If the Steelers want to be relevant in the race for the AFC North this year, he’ll have to lead the team in taking a step forward.
The weapons are certainly there for him (Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Najee Harris), but a mediocre QB can only get you so far in the NFL. We think he will improve upon last year for sure, but it may not be enough to contend in the division just yet.
Like the Steelers, the Browns are a team with plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball and question marks at the quarterback position. It wasn’t long ago that Deshaun Watson was one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, but after a tough, suspension-shortened debut in Cleveland last year, he needs to prove that he can still be that guy. If he is, then an offence that also features Amari Cooper and Nick Chubb will be a formidable one.
The issue for the Browns, though, is that they’ll be competing in a very competitive AFC North. If this team was in the NFC South, I’d be predicting an 11 win season for them. Unfortunately, they’ll have to grind it out against each of the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers twice this year. I don’t think the Browns are a bad team at all, they just may be the worst team in this division.
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