The AFC North is shaping up to be one of the most competitive divisions in not only the AFC, but the whole NFL. All 4 teams have quarterbacks who are looking to bounce back and will be the difference makers in how this division shakes out. Big Ben and Burrow are coming back from injuries while Baker and Lamar are trying not to let an underwhelming 2020 season get the best of them.
Division Winner: Cleveland Browns
The Browns have the best 1-2 running back combination in the NFL with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. With both players healthy nor suspended, we expect big things out of the Browns this year. The Browns also have Odell Beckham Jr. healthy along with an intact tight end core. The Browns finally are looking like the team they set out to build with the talent they have on their team. With a fully healthy squad and if they remain that way throughout the season, the Browns have a legitimate chance of winning this division.
2nd Place in Division: Pittsburgh Steelers
Led behind the NFL’s top defense, the Steelers are hoping to turn it around in 2021 after a collapse in the last several weeks of the season after starting undefeated. Ben Roethlisberger is suiting up for another season as the starter and potentially his last as a Steeler as he looks to get another Super Bowl ring under his belt. The biggest thing working against the Steelers from not being the best in the division is their offensive line and inconsistent play out of their receiving group. This is what ultimately cost them last year and we’re hoping with the pressure on Big Ben to perform before he retires that they could get it together for another year.
3rd Place in Division: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have been on the outside of the elite teams for the better portion of the last 10-15 years. The Ravens will soon end up being on the outside of the playoff teams in the future if Lamar Jackson can’t turn it around and other teams in the AFC such as the Dolphins and Raiders look to overtake the last wild card spot from them. The Ravens will be on the bubble of making the playoffs this season and might end up watching them from home.
Last Place in Division: Cincinnati Bengals
There is only room to improve from here for the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow was off to a promising rookie campaign only to be shortened due to a season ending injury. Burrow has spent a while recovering and appears to be in good shape to start the season. The Bengals did opt to draft Burrow’s top receiver in college in Ja’Marr Chase rather than taking an offensive lineman they desperately needed. This could come back to hurt the Bengals if Burrow does not stay healthy this season. The Bengals still need to work on their offensive line and their defense but they have a solid young core on offense that should only get better over the next several seasons. The Bengals aren’t going to compete in this tough division, but they should do better than they did last season.
Finally some good Browns news! I love the phrasing “The Browns finally are looking like the team they set out to build…” .