American Football

AFC North ranked the toughest division in football


Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Can the Bengals three-peat?

The Cincinnati Bengals have controlled the AFC North crown for the last two seasons. Joined by a healthy Baltimore Ravens squad, an improved Cleveland Browns team, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who never seem to go away, they won’t have an easy road to the top of the division in 2023.

The AFC North is known for hard-nosed, smash-mouth football, and even with the high-flying weapons, the Bengals embody that toughness. Heading in to 2023, The Score has released their 2023 division rankings, and they believe the AFC North will be the toughest division in football.

All four teams have a shot at taking the AFC North title.

The Bengals enter the year as the slim favorite and will look to finally win the Super Bowl after coming close in back-to-back years. Cincinnati made a massive splash in free agency, signing offensive tackle Orlando Brown to a sizeable contract to protect Joe Burrow for the foreseeable future. With Brown added to the offensive line and Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins rounding out one of the NFL’s best wide receiver cores, the Bengals’ offense should remain elite in 2023.

Lamar Jackson heads into this year with a new, big contract and a new supporting cast in Baltimore that will be the best he’s ever played with. Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers were added to the Ravens’ wide receiver room, which will take the pressure off Rashod Bateman, who has failed to stay healthy over two years.

The Browns’ first year with quarterback Deshaun Watson was a failure. The 27-year-old went 3-3 in six starts and failed to eclipse 300 passing yards in a game. But there’s reason for optimism heading into 2023. Cleveland added Elijah Moore to help Watson on the outside, but most importantly, the club fixed the front seven of the defense, which struggled mightily in 2022. Pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson will help stabilize the unit.

Don’t count out the Steelers. They had a tremendous draft class, adding Joey Porter and Broderick Jones, who are expected to start Week 1. Kenny Pickett flashed potential down the stretch last season, and the team is expecting a big jump from the young quarterback in Year 2. Pittsburgh is always competitive under Mike Tomlin, who secured his 16th straight winning season as its head coach in 2022.

With all four teams in the division seemingly improved, the Bengals will have their work cut out for them. Last season, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson dealt with injuries, Cleveland got Deshaun Watson back from suspension late, and Pittsburgh worked through growing pains with Kenny Pickett.

The Bengals remain the most talented team in the division, but improving on their 3-3 division record from a season ago won’t come easily.

One thing to remember, though, Bengals fans… We have Joe Burrow, and they don’t.

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