Two teams from the AFC North saw the postseason play last year with the Cincinnati Bengals losing the Super Bowl and the Pittsburgh Steelers getting eliminated in the Wild Card Round while the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns players and coaches watched from home.
This season the Steelers are dealing with replacing the retired Big Ben at QB and the Browns are handling an offseason situation that does not have a clear end, and now the Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is hoping to have a big money season and the Bengals want another Big Game.
The AFC is a tough quarterback-driven conference and the AFC North has some of the better players at that position, the perfect recipe for delicious bets so we look at the predictions, odds and picks for who will be kings of that division and make a run for postseason glory and beyond.
Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook
It might be tough to repeat a Super Bowl appearance but winning the AFC North seems totally doable for this crew led by Joe Burrow and game planned by the football clever Zac Taylor.
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Last season did not go the way the Ravens had planned due to an ankle injury to QB Lamar Jackson in week 14 against the Browns which took him out for the rest of the season though despite that was still named to the Pro Bowl, a sign that he was on track to win.
This season, HC John Harbaugh and OC Greg Roman have a healthy Jackson under center, and they can go on with offensive business as usual while they use their unique brand of game plan that utilizes Jackson’s ability to scramble along with the run game led by RB J.K. Dobbins.
Now the offensive line has been upgraded as well with the addition of first-round rookie draft pick C Tyler Linderbaum and veteran free agent OT Morgan Moses, two strong additions that should give the Ravens run game even more juice and improve pass protection, as well.
Repeating a Super Bowl appearance is rare but doable, especially when you have a playmaking and gutsy QB like Joe Burrow, a natural team leader who brings out the best in his men, especially deep threat receiver Ja’Marr Chase, now in his second NFL season.
Speaking of soft-handed players, the Bengals picked up UFA TE Hayden Hurst to help with the line blocking and pass-catching, and Burrow also has dual-threat RBs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine to target out of the backfield, a potent offense that in 2021 scored 27 points per game.
To win the AFC North, though, a team must stack divisional wins, and last season the Bengals were 4-2 playing teams from the AFC North, with both of those losses at the hands of their Ohio enemies, the Cleveland Browns having their number in both the Week 9 and Week 18 games.
The reason such a talented Cleveland roster finds itself in third place on this list is mainly because of the offseason situation they created themselves by going after the only elite QB available, the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, who was expensive on multiple levels.
Watson cost big bucks – a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract, the largest deal and most guaranteed money in NFL history – but he is also costing them with all the drama that surrounds him, a constant interruption to the Browns training and game plans for the season.
Now they will make do with backup Jacoby Brissett and hope he can run the offense without losing games, a possibility made more likely due to the excellent play on the defensive side of the ball, with a solid pass rush and secondary that should make opposing QBs suffer in 2022.
It was inevitable that the Steelers would be in the position they are in now since their longtime QB Ben Roethlisberger was bound to retire at some point, and now HC Mike Tomlin must figure out what to do with that key position, and he has a few options now.
One is to give the QB job to Mitchell Trubisky, a former Bears hurler who did well and then didn’t, or else the job could go to rookie QB Kenny Pickett, the former Pitt star who has looked decent in preseason ball, including a game-winning TD pass to Jalen Warren in the endzone.
What the Steelers have going for them is a history of winning, so never count them out in terms of showing up to play, and when you have one of the NFL’s leading sackers in T.J. Watt as well as FS Minkah Fitzpatrick on your defensive squad, wins are bound to happen in 2022.
|AFC North Divisional Titles||Total|
The AFC North was born in 2002 after the NFL restructured the way the teams would be divided, and since then the historically best team in the AFC North is the Pittsburgh Steelers, a franchise with multiple Super Bowl wins (see below) and plenty of divisional titles (9) as a result.
The Baltimore Ravens have six AFC North titles, and the Cincinnati Bengals have five, but since that division has existed there is only one team that has not won the AFC North divisional title and that is the hapless Cleveland Browns who typically struggle just to post a winning season.
The chances of the Browns overcoming their off-the-field problems (QB Watson’s suspension) in time to make a difference this season are slim, so this might not be the year they finally get a notch on this list, but it’s more likely the Ravens or Bengals will earn that honor in 2022.
|AFC North Divisional Titles||Total|
Every NFL franchise has a start-of-the-season goal of winning the Big Game, the Super Bowl, the league championship matchup held in February that pits the best team that year from the AFC against the best of the NFC to see which conference can claim they were better that year.
In the AFC North, only two teams have won Super Bowls, the Pittsburgh Steelers with six Lombardi Trophies in their history and the Baltimore Ravens with two, while the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns have never won the final dance, though the Bengals have tried.
It was a shock to see such a young Bengals bunch make it all the way to Super Bowl LVI where they faced the NFC’s Los Angeles Rams coached by Sean McVay, a fast and hard tackling team that won that game by a field goal, 23-20, a tough loss that Cincy is set to avenge.
|What||2022/23 NFL Regular Season|
|Where||USA + International|
|When||Thu, Sept 8 thru Sunday, Feb 12, 2023|
|How to watch||CBS/ESPN/Fox/NBC/NFLN|
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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