The NFL is now entering the 2022 portion of the 2021 NFL regular season. In breaking down the matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Cleveland Browns on Monday at Heinz Field, I was looking back over several trends with the Browns heading into this game. I outlined a number of things on my Steelers Stat Geek podcast this past week, including how the Browns have only scored more than 17 points in three of their last 10 games.
Another item I looked at was “signature wins” outside of the division. The AFC North has a tendency to play each other tough at various times, and, with the familiarity with each other, assuming a victory is coming is the last thing anyone should do. But what about the quality opponents teams faced outside of the division?
After looking at the games specifically for the Browns, I decided to expand on the entire AFC North to see how many “signature wins” each team has produced other than against their divisional opponents. When looking at a “signature win” I am defining it as defeating a team who is currently over .500 going into Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season.
So without further ado, here are the signature wins by each AFC North team which have come against opponents from a different division:
Week 11 at Las Vegas Raiders (8-7)
While the Bengals’ only win against a non-division team who is currently over .500 is against the Las Vegas Raiders, it should be noted they are the only AFC North team who was able to defeat the Raiders this season. Additionally, once the final two weeks of the regular season pan out, the Raiders could fall out of this category at season’s end if they are unable to defeat either the Indianapolis Colts or Los Angeles Chargers.
The Bengals only had four games outside of the division against teams who are currently over .500 as they fell in defeat to the Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers. The Bengals will get another chance to beat a quality opponent outside of the division in Week 17 as they host the Kansas City Chiefs, and the victory would give them the AFC North title.
Week 2 vs. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
Week 5 vs. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
Week 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
With the Baltimore Ravens, their three wins over quality opponents may be as much a product of timing as anything. The Ravens squeaked out a victory when Kansas City fumbled the ball away at the end of Week 2 and the Chiefs began a stretch where many had written them off for the season. Additionally, the overtime win over the Colts in Week 5 knocked Indianapolis down to 1-4 at the time before they went on to win eight of their next 10 games. Their trouncing on the Chargers in Baltimore may have been the last high moment for the Ravens’ season as they have since dropped six of their last nine.
The Ravens have also lost three games to non-divisional teams are over .500 at this point as they fell to the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay Packers, and the Miami Dolphins. Just like the Bengals, the Ravens get another chance at a signature win in Week 17 as they host the Los Angeles Rams.
Week 1 at Buffalo Bills (9-6)
Week 15 vs. Tennessee Titans (10-5)
The Steelers got one of their biggest wins of the season the very first week when they took down the Bills in Buffalo. Despite uninspiring play from their offense, the Steelers defense took advantage of four takeaways in order to take down the Tennessee Titans at home in the only non-divisional signature win produced by the AFC North which since Thanksgiving.
The Steelers had plenty of chances to add signature wins the season, but fell short to the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Chargers, and Kansas City Chiefs.
That’s right folks, the Cleveland Browns have not defeated a single team above .500 on the 2021 NFL season outside of their own division. The Browns have fallen to the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders, and Green Bay Packers. And for the rest of the season, their only games remaining are within the division. The only chance the Browns have to get a signature win outside of the division for 2021 is if a team such as the Denver Broncos or Minnesota Vikings manage to get above .500 by the end of the season.
It should also be noted the Browns have defeated every non-divisional team who is not .500 at this time, going 5-0.
So there are the wins the AFC North has against teams outside of their division who are above .500 heading into Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season. In all, the division is a combined 6–16 in these games with two more yet to play. As noted, teams could fall out of being above .500 on the season as well as other teams could move up into that range by the time Week 18 is concluded. But going into the games in 2022, the AFC North has not come up with many big wins, especially in the second half of the season, against quality opponents.
To check out the entirety of this week’s Steelers Stat Geek podcast, click on the player below: