We have looked into the AFC West and South, now let’s peek into the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals come into the season as the defending NCF North champions. Baltimore had an injury-riddled season where Lamar Jackson missed a bulk of it. Pittsburgh finished third, but they have a lot to look forward to regarding their future. Cleveland finished at the bottom of the division but will have Deshaun Watson for a full season. Cincinnati and Baltimore are viewed as possible Super Bowl contenders in the AFC. The Bengals are super talented but will have to replace some key pieces. Baltimore will need to stay healthy, which is something they couldn’t do a year ago. Who leaves 2023 as the AFC North champions?
The Ravens were one of the better teams in the first half of last year. Lamar Jackson got injured and everything fell apart. Baltimore finished a couple games behind the Bengals in the division. The Ravens offense is so much different when Jackson is on the field. The score about 10 points less a game when he’s not on the field. There were times in the offseason where it seemed like he was going to play elsewhere. Lamar Jackson finally signed a contract extension to remain with the Ravens for at least five more years. Baltimore brought in Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agolohor to boost a nice receiving core. Will the Ravens have enough to win the AFC North this season? Can they stay healthy to make a run at the division title and even more?
The Cincinnati Bengals is hoping to make a return to the Super Bowl. Joe Burrow still has one of the better receiving corps in the league. They brought in Irv Smith Jr. at the tight end position after losing Hayden Hurst. Joe Burrow suffered an injury in camp, and we don’t know his status for the beginning of the regular season. Cincinnati lost a good number of players on both sides of the ball so others will need to step up. As mentioned, they lost Hayden Hurst and they also lost Samaje Perine. Perine is one of the better backup running backs in the league. On defense, they lost a couple key pieces to their secondary. Jessie Bates III is elsewhere one of the better safeties in the NFL. Can Cincy repeat as AFC North champs?
The Cleveland Browns finished at the bottom of the AFC North division last season. Deshaun Watson will enter his first full season as the Browns starter. In a division with Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow you need to know how to get after the quarterback. Cleveland brought in Dalvin Tomlinson. Tomlinson is great at pressuring the opposing quarterback. Cleveland also added Juan Thornhill from Kansas City and Rodney McLeod from the Eagles in the secondary. On offense, they didn’t bring back Kareem Hunt but still have Nick Chubb. Chubb is arguably the toughest running back in the game. This year is all about Deshaun Watson and if he can return to form of a few years ago. The Browns have a lot of questions, which makes it hard to figure out where they belong in the AFC North.
Pittsburgh comes into this season with a chip on their shoulders. They barely missed the playoffs a year ago, but they have a lot of great parts. Kenny Pickett looked more and more like the franchise quarterback they hoped he would be. To help him more, the Steelers invested in ways to protect him. In free agency, they brought in Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig from the Eagles. Seumalo and Herbig will help the Steelers offensive line protect Pickett. Pittsburgh also brought in Allen Robinson II to help with an already good receiving core. The Steelers are hoping to be healthy unlike last year. If Pittsburgh can remain healthy this season, they could be in contention in a tough division. Can Pickett continue to grow and make a run in the AFC North?
My 2023 AFC North Standings
- Baltimore Ravens
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Cleveland Browns