NFL AFC North 2019 Season Preview

Author
by Chris Feery
August 27th 2019, 7:43am

Based on the overwhelming amount of hype out there, the Cleveland Browns winning the AFC North is being treated as if it’s a foregone conclusion. A whole lot can happen between now and Week 17, so we’ll naturally have to wait and see what happens.

Let’s take a closer look at all four teams in the division as the season fast approaches.

AFC North Winner

Favorite to Win the AFC North

Cleveland Browns

After an 0-16 campaign in 2017, there was nowhere to go for the Browns but up. The team did just that by going 7-8-1 last season, surviving an in-season coaching change along the way.

The franchise didn’t stand pat in the offseason either, so the arrow is clearly pointing up.

Baker Mayfield

Odell Beckham Jr. was the headline acquisition. He could further open up an offense that showed a lot of promise behind Baker Mayfield last year. The defense displayed flashes as well, so the once woeful Browns are suddenly looking like a complete team. 

Cleveland is clearly in the mix for the division crown or a Wild Card berth.  

Browns Season Wins

A contender to Watch in the AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers got to watch last year’s playoffs with the rest of us. Changes have come to Pittsburgh as a result. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell have taken their talents elsewhere, so it’s on Ben Roethlisberger and the talented supporting cast to keep the offense humming. 

Ben Roethlisberger Steelers QB

There’s quite a bit of pressure on James Conner and JuJU Smith-Schuster as a result, but both players have demonstrated they may be up to the task. The franchise took steps to bolster the defense in the offseason as well. 

Pittsburgh could actually improve in 2019 in spite of parting ways with a pair of big names.

Steelers Make Playoffs?

Steelers Over/Under Wins

The Rest of the AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

The defending AFC North champions will have a bit of a new look this year. It’s officially Lamar Jackson’s offense as Joe Flacco was shipped off to the Denver Broncos. The defense was raided in free agency, but there remain some talented pieces in place. 

Head coach John Harbaugh had a bit of a warm seat in the middle of 2018, but the team’s impressive run to close out the year turned the temperature down.

Expectations are being slightly muted for the Ravens due to questions about Jackson taking a leap forward and the attrition on defense. 

In the end, this is a team that will be a factor in the division and playoff chase. 

Ravens Season Wins

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals started off 2018 looking really good with a mark of 4-1, but the season would quickly go south.

The team would win just two more games the rest of the way to finish up at 6-10. That brought an end to the tenure of head coach Marvin Lewis. 

Zac Taylor is the new man in charge, and optimism is high that he’ll be the right person for the job over the long run. However, that’s not bolstering confidence for the season at hand, which may turn out to be a transition year in Cincinnati. 

This club isn’t going to roll over for division foes, but there’s a clear gap between the Bengals and the other three AFC North squads.

Bengals Make Playoffs? 

Bottom Line on the AFC North

This should be one of the more fascinating division races to watch this season. A legitimate case can be made for each of the Browns, Steelers, and Ravens to take it down. 

We concur that the Browns are a team on the rise, but we also believe they have some more growing to do. It wouldn’t stun us to see the team nab a Wild Card berth, but we like the Steelers to reclaim the throne atop the AFC North in 2019.