The kickoff to the 2023 NFL season is less than one week away, which means it’s about that time for us in the media to put our names on our predictions for the season. Who will win the AFC North? In what order will the Steelers and remaining teams fall? Let’s get into it.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6)
This isn’t to say the Steelers are a better team than the Bengals. Rather, they have a very strong, and promising roster, as well as an easier road to winning the division. Their schedule is easier than Cincinnati’s, and all of the talent on the roster is evident. Kenny Pickett looks poised to take that much-discussed “next step.”
With an elite head coach in Mike Tomlin and the offensive firepower combined with a defense full of All-Pros and young on-the-rise talents at every level, the Steelers will shock a lot of people and win the division.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-6)
The Bengals are still going to be the team we have grown accustom to over the last two seasons. The offense is going to be fantastic with their usual suspects of Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins eating defenses alive. The defense is fantastic, as well, with D.J. Reader, Trey Hendrickson, and Germaine Pratt patrolling the first and second levels. I do worry, however, that we will see a similar slow start for the Bengals akin to what we saw in 2022.
Joe Burrow didn’t take a snap in the preseason, and has been dealing with a calf injury. It’s very possible the Bengals start off slow, and can’t quite catch the Steelers to win the division. No team has won the AFC North in three consecutive years since division realignment in 2001, and I don’t see that changing.
3. Cleveland Browns (9-8)
I don’t know if we’ll see Deshaun Watson look like his former self, but I do think he will look better. If he is a slightly above-average quarterback, the Browns have more than enough around him on this roster to be a Wildcard contender.
I love the addition of Elijah Moore to pair with Amari Cooper, and Nick Chubb is still one of the best running backs in football. Myles Garrett is going to be fantastic, as he always is, and I expect a step forward from the secondary. They have the horses, it’s just a matter of Watson and Kevin Stefanski putting it together.
4. Baltimore Ravens (8-9)
I’m not sure if there is a more overrated team coming into this season than Baltimore. Lamar Jackson is great, but can he stay healthy all year? That’s really the question for the entire team. All of their expected top contributors offensively have injury problems. Odell Beckham Jr. is on the wrong side of 30 with a CVS receipt of recent injury issues. Rashod Bateman can’t stay healthy, and Mark Andrews also missed time last season. The Ravens have been one of the most injury-prone teams over the last two seasons, and they are banking a lot on the health of players who don’t stay on the field for 17 games. Not to mention they have a new offense under Todd Monken.
Defensively, I love Roquan Smith and Marlon Humphrey, but Humphrey is also dealing with an injury. There are just too many question marks to bank on the Ravens being a playoff team this season.