The AFC North has long been defined by its rugged, physical, and hard-nosed style of football across the division’s four teams. Additionally, it’s widely been considered one of the better divisions in the league for some time. That set’s to be the case again in 2023.
There’s an argument to be made that it’s in fact the best single division in the league. NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha believes so, as he ranked the AFC North No. 1 in his recent division rankings list for the 2023 season.
“The North is king this year because every team has a real shot to reach the postseason.” Chadiha said. He proceeded to make a positive case for each individual squad, beginning with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Quarterback Kenny Pickett is maturing quickly in his second season, the defense still has an assortment of playmakers and Mike Tomlin can coach his butt off,” Chadiha wrote.
The Steelers have won nine games in each of the past two seasons after finishing 12-4 and winning the division in 2020. They’ve never had a sub-.500 campaign during the Tomlin coaching era. As for the Cleveland Browns, Chadiha describes them as an “intriguing sleeper.”
“Two straight losing seasons shouldn’t obscure the fact that plenty of talent remains for a team that made the playoffs in 2020,” Chadiha wrote. “They’ll also have quarterback Deshaun Watson for a full season and a defense that should prosper under new coordinator Jim Schwartz.”
After winning 11 games in 2020, their most in franchise history since 1994, the Browns have gone 8-9 and 7-10 in the two seasons since. Their upside in 2023, however, stems from the potential of Watson having a bounce-back year, and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz making a significant impact. Cleveland has high-level talent across positions on both sides of the ball.
It’s the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, though, who have finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the division standings the past two seasons. They’re once again the favorites to win the AFC North, in that same order, and Chadiha says there’s good reason.
“The Ravens are eager to prove that quarterback Lamar Jackson can take his game to another level in an offense that is expected to feature a more dynamic passing attack,” he says. “The Bengals are praying the calf strain that has sidelined quarterback Joe Burrow since early in training camp doesn’t linger into the regular season.”
Right now, it appears to me that both Baltimore and Cincinnati are poised to make deep playoff runs,” Chadiha concludes.
To his point, the Bengals and Ravens have the highest winning percentages in the division since 2019. The Bengals have won back-to-back AFC North titles, won 10+ games in three straight seasons, and appeared in the AFC Championship game two years in a row. They’re squarely now in the conversation as a Top-5 team in the league.
The Ravens are looking to get back into that realm after a lack of recent playoff success and poor regular season finishes the past two seasons. As Chadiha noted, Baltimore’s ceiling in 2023 is elevated thanks to Jackson and the new-look passing attack’s potential.
In the rest of Chadiha’s division rankings, the AFC East and AFC West trail directly behind, with the NFC East and NFC West rounding out the Top-5. The NFC North, AFC South, and and NFC South are the bottom-three listed divisions.
Do you agree that the AFC North is the best division in the NFL this season? Chime in below with your thoughts.
Is the AFC North the league’s best division in 2023?
This poll is closed