The AFC North has been completely wild this year. The year started off with the Browns tying the Steelers. That game was followed with the Bengals surprising everybody in the country with a Thursday Night football win over the Ravens. The Ravens then redeem themselves by beating the Steelers, and then unredeemed themselves by losing to the Browns. The Bengals finally had a great shot to beat the Steelers, but they proceeded to blow it as usual. Just recently, the Steelers beat the Browns. The AFC North is shaping up to be one of the craziest, most competitive divisions in the league. The Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals all have a shot at winning the division. It’s most likely that two teams from the AFC North will make the playoffs(division leader, and one in the wildcard). Who who will make it, and who will be left out? Read below to figure it out. No offense to the Browns, but let’s be realistic. They are another year or two away.
The Pittsburgh Steelers might be the most dramatic team in the league. Every week it seems there is a headline about them. Le’Veon Bell not returning to the Steelers has not hurt them at all. James Conner has been great for them. The offense really is about unstoppable. The only thing that can really hurt the Steelers offense, is Ben Roethlisberger. If he plays bad, then the whole offense will struggle. We have seen a couple times this year, where Big Ben has played very poorly. What will really hurt the Steelers down the road, is their defense. Their defense just isn’t very good. While TJ Watt and the defensive line have had great moments, they have been inconsistent. There will be games where they play great, and the offensive line looks miserable. There will be other times they just can’t get any pressure at all. That inconstancy will kill them. Them being a wildcard going into each game makes it harder for them to scheme. The Steelers 2 biggest weaknesses this year, have been linebacker and cornerback. Not a great combination of weaknesses. Teams will attack them there. They do a poor job of scheming around these weaknesses. The Steelers are going to be very reliant on the offense to win the games. Even with the defense being so lackluster, they probably will find a way too win the division. It seems as if the Steelers own the Bengal. They just always find a way to beat them. Even if the Ravens sweep the Steelers, the Ravens have been very inconsistent this year. Too inconsistent to win the division.
Speaking of the Ravens, they can still very well win the North. They have the talent to do so. They are the most well balanced team in the division. They have one of the better defenses in the league. With the Ravens actually having legit targets, Flacco has been looking much better than last year. Like I previously said, they have just been way to inconsistent. They go out and beat the Steelers, but they then lose to the Browns. Sitting at 4-4 (Either 5-4 or 4-5 after week 9) they just don’t have room for that. If the Ravens stay consistent, they have a fair shot at winning the division. However, if they lose to the Steelers, the they are in serious trouble.
The Bengals are a serious wildcard team. The past few games they have played, they have not looked very good. In their last 3 games, they choked to the Steelers, got murdered by the Chiefs, and nearly choked to the Buccaneers. With that being said, the Bengals have had some really good wins. They beat the Ravens on Thursday night football, came back from a 17 point deficit against the Dolphins, came back from 13 against the Colts, and found a way to beat the Falcons. They find ways to win. It’s really coaching that has ruined the Bengals. Marvin Lewis has been choking leads, Teryl Austin deceive schemes have been awful, and Bill Lazor has been inconsistent. If the Bengals want to make the playoffs, the coaches will have to step up.
Final verdict: Steelers will likely win the division. They always improve as the year goes on. It’s the wildcard that is tricky. With the Chargers likely winning a wildcard spot, only one between them can win it. If the Ravens can stay consistent, they my vote goes to them. Bengals just don’t have the defense to win it. But if the Ravens don’t stay consistent, they can sneak in with their offensive talent.