The AFC North is probably going to be one of the most interesting divisions to watch this season with the changes made to each of the teams’ rosters. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown to free agency, the Cleveland Browns added Odell Beckham Jr. via trade, the Baltimore Ravens signed Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram, and the Cincinnati Bengals lost Vontaze Burfict. The winner of this division will come down to team chemistry in my opinion because the talent is there for each team. Let’s get into it here is who I have winning the AFC North.
Cleveland Browns: 10-6 tie
I did not think I would be saying these words for a while but I have the Cleveland Browns winning the AFC North, achieving their first winning record since 2007 and making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. I have them taking the division via tiebreaker over the Baltimore Ravens. Ultimately, the Browns have a better roster than the Ravens and a slightly easier schedule. The offseason addition of Odell Beckham will vastly improve their offense that has Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt (when he gets back from suspension), Jarvis Landry and David Njoku. How their defense plays will determine how far they will go in the postseason but ultimately their offense is good enough to get them there.
Baltimore Ravens: 10-6 tie
I have the Ravens finishing second behind the Browns losing the tiebreaker but still in contention for a Wild Card spot in the AFC. Although the Ravens made two very good moves this offseason acquiring Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas, they lost a lot as two of their leading receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree and defensive pro bowlers C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle are now gone. Unless Lamar Jackson improves as a passer, this offense will be one-dimensional and slightly diminished on defense. However, I expect the Ravens rushing attack to carry the Ravens offense successfully this season and if Earl Thomas is healthy, the Ravens secondary will be good this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-9
As I mentioned before, the Steelers lost two key pieces to their offense this offseason in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Those losses will diminish their offense but, unlike the Ravens, they do not have a good enough defense to fall back on. Although they will have a solid offense with their passing attack as I expect JuJu Smith-Schuster among the league leaders in receiving this season, it will not be good enough to offset their below average offense and will cause the Steelers to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Cincinnati Bengals: 5-11
Outside of Joe Mixon, there is not much upside for the Bengals going into this season. They have a subpar passing game with a quarterback who has played well below expectations and a very below average defense that did not improve this offseason. Joe Mixon and the running game for the Bengals will be the best defense for the Bengals controlling the clock and keeping the ball out of the opposing offenses hands. That, however, can only take them but so far. The Bengals’ lack of moves this offseason means they will be in contention for a top draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and will be out of the playoffs again this season.