The AFC North has been a bloodbath for the past few NFL seasons. Joe Burrow and the Bengals have dominated, the Ravens have threatened, the Steelers have always been competitive, and the Browns can’t be taken lightly anymore.
The 2023 season expects more of the same, with these being our bold predictions for how the season will shake out.
- Cincinnati Bengals
Represent AFC in the Super Bowl
It almost feels like we’re waiting for Joe Burrow‘s time. Despite falling short in Super Bowl LVI, Burrow improved last season and has an upgraded supporting cast, namely a more robust offensive line. While claiming that the Bengals make the Super Bowl isn’t necessarily bold, what are we going to do, say they will stink? They’re the second-best team in the AFC and after falling just short in the AFC title game last season. I expect Burrow and Co. to return with a vengeance, finding themselves in the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons.
- Cleveland Browns
Earn Top Wild Card Spot in AFC
Now, let’s get a little bit bolder. Maybe I’m higher on the Browns than most, a risky bet given that they’re still the Cleveland Browns, but this team can work some magic. Deshaun Watson will have an entire offseason under his belt without having a looming suspension hanging over his head, and we all can’t be too quick to forget how great he was the last time he played an entire season. Around him, the Browns have an underrated supporting cast with an elite offensive line, an underrated receiving corps led by Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore, and the best pure running back in football in Nick Chubb. Defensively, aside from having Myles Garrett, the Browns have a well-balanced defense that new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will be able to maximize.
- Pittsburgh Steelers
TJ Watt Wins Defensive Player of the Year, Steelers Make Playoffs
TJ Watt doesn’t just have a case for being the best edge rusher; he has a case for being the best player in all of football. He’s that special, and his importance to the Steelers can’t be understated. Last season, when Watt missed seven games, and the Steelers went 1-6. With him, they went 8-2. In his previous full season, where he took home Defensive Player of the Year honors, he finished with 22.5 sacks, and I expect comparable results in 2023. The Steelers aren’t a losing organization, and Mike Tomlin doesn’t have losing seasons. With Watt presumed healthy, his presence will catapult Pittsburgh to the playoffs in a crowded AFC field.
- Baltimore Ravens
I don’t get the Ravens hype. Lamar Jackson got his money and all, but what’s to say that alone will make the Ravens one of the better teams in the AFC? I need to see everything come together first. We already know Jackson is a wizard with his legs, but the passing game has held back the Ravens. There is an assumption that Odell Beckham Jr. (who didn’t play in 2022) and rookie Zay Flowers will transform the passing game. They may, but they need to prove it first. Alongside a weak running back room that’s continuously hurt, I see this Ravens offense not elevating to where many expect it to be. Defensively, they could be elite, but they did lose multiple starters, and now Marlon Humphrey is sidelined after having foot surgery. With about eight teams fighting for three Wild Card spots, I expect the Ravens to miss out.
Stay ahead of the game and elevate your sports betting experience with SportsGrid.