The AFC North projects as one of the leagues toughest divisions in 2023, with all 4 teams’ eyes set on a division title and a playoff run. One can debate the validity of each team’s chances to reach that goal, but the fact is that the Cincinnati Bengals, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns, and our own Pittsburgh Steelers all believe they belong in the conversation with the AFC’s best.
In this series, I will attempt to rank the four AFC North teams by position. Where else is there to start but at the game’s most important position: Quarterback.
2022 Stats: 17 Starts, 4,475 YDS, 35 TD, 12 INT, 100.8 RTG
Analysis: Burrow has established himself as a top 3 NFL Quarterback for the Bengals, and he just keeps getting better. No signal caller in the league is more unflappable than “Joe Cool” and despite not owning a truly elite arm, Burrow’s anticipation, timing, and pocket maneuvering might be the league’s best, and he has the ability to excel outside structure when the play breaks down. Right now, number 9 is the cream of the crop at QB in the North.
2022 stats: 12 Starts, 2,242 Yds, 20 Tot TD, 7 int, 91.1 Rtg (764 Rush Yds)
Analysis: The Ravens made Lamar Jackson a very rich man this offseason, and now the talented but injury-prone QB must show out as the do-it-all player they paid him to be. When healthy, there is no more exciting player in all of football, but Jackson has to finally prove to the Ravens and the NFL world that he can win from the pocket. Color me skeptical, but still, Lamar is a threat to take over any game, and if he can improve as a passer in new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monkin’s NFL-style passing scheme, the Ravens will be a true contender in 2023 and beyond.
2022 Stats: 12 Starts , 2,404 Yds, 10 Tot TD, 9 Int, 76.7 Rtg
Analysis: Pickett’s upside is immense. We talk a lot about the “intangibles” that the 2nd year QB displayed as a Rookie. Many QBs never display those winning traits, and the fact that Kenny was able to rise up in big moments and play clean, clutch football when it mattered most has Steelers fans plenty excited for a big leap in 2023. He is a player on the rise, and a full offseason immersed in Matt Canada’s system as the unquestioned starter should provide all the experience he needs to truly breakout in year 2. Right now, I’ll take an ascending Pickett over the complete unknown in Cleveland.
2022 Stats: 6 Starts, 1,102 Yds, 8 Tot TD, 5 Int, 79.1 Rtg
Analysis: Whether Watson can return to his 2020 form or not is a complete mystery. There were flashes of his former brilliance as a manipulator of the pocket in 2022, but overall, Browns fans should be wringing their hands with what they saw on the field at the price it was purchased. To be frank, the contract is part of the reason Watson and the Browns find themselves last in my AFC North QB rankings. Expectations will be through the roof, and if Watson can rekindle his Pro Bowl form, he could definitely rise in these rankings. It’s important to note though, that the AFC North might have a better 4-man combo at QB than any other division.
Next time on my AFC North Rankings by position, we’ll look at the running back rooms for each squad and sort out the top unit in the division. What did you think of my QB rankings? Who’s too high/low? Chat it up!