Fans of AFC North teams are often quick to point out how difficult the division is.
However, it seems like every division is still talking about their strength. What about objective analysis? What do they have to say? They agree that the AFC North is tough, despite the Cincinnati Bengals, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano:
The Ravens and Browns rank better than any team in the NFC West, according to REIT ratings. It’s the only division with two teams in the REIT’s top six, and neither of them is the reigning division champion. It would be the Steelers, who started last season 11-0 before running out of gas and losing to the Browns in the wild card round. The general classification of the division is dragged down by Cincinnati.
But is there another division whose last-place team embarrassed their Monday Night Football first-place team in Week 15? Is there any other division whose third-ranked team – based on the FPI – has a coach (Mike Tomlin) who has never had a losing season in 14 years and a quarterback who has never had a lost season in 17 (Ben Roethlisberger)? The Browns have attacked their defensive shortcomings this offseason and could have as many as nine new starters on this side of the ball. Lamar Jackson of the Ravens was the league’s MVP two seasons ago. The Bengals are expected to get Joe Burrow back to good health and believe they’ve beefed up his supporting cast in his second season. What about the Steelers? Well, it’s the Steelers.
FPI is not a big fan of the Bengals who place them 27th in the league. In fairness to this statistic, it doesn’t really predict a drastic improvement of a team up or down until the next season.
The Browns and Ravens are obviously the crème de la crème of AFC North as Cleveland was close to taking the Chiefs out in the playoffs and Lamar Jackson already has an MVP on his resume.
The Steelers could very well fall to the bottom of the division. However, the Bengals should be more concerned with competing with Cleveland and Baltimore in the long run, with these two teams showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon with their quarterbacks and supporting castings.
There is no doubt that Cincinnati will soon have Joe Burrow leading this team to a level where they vie for playoff spots, and coming from such a fierce division will only help when the playoffs arrive. They’ll already be used to playing against some of the best teams in the league at this point.
By this time next year, the Bengals should be more positive as to why AFC North is such a tough test for the rest of the NFL.