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Ranking the AFC North by position group

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Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Regular season rosters are mostly set and Week 1 action is rapidly approaching. The race for the AFC crown will begin immediately with the Bengals hosting the Ravens and the Browns hosting the Steelers on Sunday. Oddsmakers expect a relatively competitive division, with the Pittsburgh offered at 2-5 odds to win the North, Cincinnati at 16-4 and Baltimore at 5-1.

Each team has their own respective strengths and weaknesses. Who holds the edge at each position group entering the regular season?

Quarterback

1. Steelers

2. Ravens

3. Bengals

4. Browns

‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger is the most consistent quarterback in the division. Neither Joe Flacco nor Andy Dalton are great under pressure, but Flacco’s postseason prowess earns him the nod.

Running Back

1. Steelers

2. Browns

3. Bengals

4. Ravens

Le’Veon Bell is the class of division. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson give Cleveland a nice one-two punch. Cincinnati has invested valuable resources into the position, Joe Mixon is hoping to outproduce Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard.

Tight End

1. Bengals

2. Ravens

3. Steelers

4. Browns

When healthy, Tyler Eifert is a dangerous red zone weapon. Baltimore has three quality tight ends with diverse skillsets, and Maxx Williams is poised for a breakout campaign. Recently acquired Vance McDonald keeps Pittsburgh ahead of Cleveland while David Njoku develops.

Wide Receiver

1. Steelers

2. Bengals

3. Ravens

4. Browns

Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers may be the best receiver trio in the NFL. A.J. Green props up Cincinnati, while the addition of Jeremy Maclin allows Baltimore to edge out Corey Coleman and company.

Offensive Line

1. Steelers

2. Browns

3. Ravens

4. Bengals

Pittsburgh’s line is experienced and solid from left to right. Cleveland has a weakness at right tackle, but Joe Thomas is still one of the best blindside protectors in the league. The Ravens have two above average blockers in Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley, but questions elsewhere. The Bengals line is expected to be among the worst in the NFL this season.

Special Teams

1. Ravens

2. Steelers

3. Browns

4. Bengals

Justin Tucker is the best kicker on the planet. Antonio Brown and Jabrill Peppers are dangerous return men.

Defensive Line

1. Bengals

2. Steelers

3. Ravens

4. Browns

All four teams boast stout defensive fronts. Geno Atkins leads the way for the Bengals. Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward provide Pittsburgh with a strong pair of ends. Baltimore has two mammoths on the interior with Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. Cleveland has plenty of young talent, including top overall draft pick Myles Garrett.

Linebacker

1. Ravens

2. Steelers

3. Browns

4. Bengals

Baltimore holds a clear advantage here with C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and four impressive young edge rushers. Ryan Shazier is neck-and-neck with Mosley for best inside linebacker in the North. Jamie Collins leads a rapidly improving corps in Cleveland, while Vontaze Burfict is the most notable ‘backer in Cincinnati.

Cornerback

1. Ravens

2. Bengals

3. Steelers

4. Browns

If he can avoid injury, Jimmy Smith is the best cover man in the division. The Bengals have a trio of former first rounders to fill in while Adam Jones is suspended. Pittsburgh’s corners improved greatly with the addition of former Brown Joe Haden.

Safety

1. Ravens

2. Bengals

3. Steelers

4. Browns

Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson should comprise one of the top two or three safety tandems in the league this year. The other three teams have at least one starting safety who can be exploited due to coverage deficiencies.

Coaching

1. Ravens

2. Steelers

3. Browns

4. Bengals

John Harbaugh does more with less when compared to his peers. Mike Tomlin has at least one playoff win in back-to-back seasons. Hue Jackson’s offensive creativity puts him ahead of Marvin Lewis in this ranking.