The AFC North Looks To Once Again Be A 3-Team Race
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By Samuel Njoku
The AFC North has always fielded at least 2 elite teams per year in the NFL. With the strong parity of the conference this year, it seems that every team is in the hunt for the postseason. Here’s a look at the AFC North as the hunt for the division title continues.
Baltimore Ravens: (5-2) 1st place
The Baltimore Ravens have control of first place in the AFC North. But the team still remains one of the more inconsistent teams in the NFL. At home, there doesn’t seem to be a team in the league that can stop them. On the road, the Ravens can look like one of the worst teams in the league. Baltimore currently holds a 2-0 record in the division with wins against Cincinnati and Cleveland. But with 9 games left on the schedule, anything can happen.
The Ravens still have 2 games to go against rival Pittsburgh as well as away games against Cleveland and Cincinnati. If Baltimore can sweep the division as they did last season, they should win the division.
Pittsburgh Steelers: (3-3) 2nd place
Pittsburgh has always been one of the elite teams in the NFL. With a stout defense and a dynamic offense, they are a perennial playoff team. This year however, Pittsburgh seems to have taken a step back. Similar to Baltimore, Pittsburgh’s defense looks old and slow. And unlike Baltimore, the Steelers offense hasn’t done much to bail them out. Their running game is poor. And their offensive line has been decimated by injuries.
The Steelers do have Ben Roethlisberger. And the 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback is still one of the best in the game. If Big Ben can somehow carry this team, they’ll be fighting with Baltimore for the division title. If he can’t, this team will likely miss the postseason.
Cincinnati Bengals: (3-4) 3rd place
Many pundits saw Baltimore and Pittsburgh taking a step back this year. That led them to believe Cincinnati would take the next step and become the class of the AFC North. That hasn’t occurred yet due to the fact that they have struggled against their division opponents. They’ve lost games to Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. Their overall record in the division is 1-3. You can’t win the division with a record like that.
This team is still dangerous. Andy Dalton has looked good this year. And A.J. Green already looks to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. They are only 2 games behind Baltimore, making this a 3 team race for the division title.
Cleveland Browns: (1-6) 4th place
Cleveland has been a perennial last place team in the division. This season looks to be no different. Brandon Weeden has played solid football, but has yet to prove he is the answer to an age old question. Who can play quarterback for the Cleveland Browns? Trent Richardson has been a bright spot in an otherwise struggling defense. But he can’t do it by himself.
It looks as if the Browns are out of the playoff picture. But teams in the AFC North shouldn’t underestimate them. The Ravens barely beat the Browns in M&T Bank Stadium. And the Bengals actually handed Cleveland their only win of the season. Cleveland will look to play spoiler as the season winds down. But that’s the best they can hope to muster after another failed season.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.