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2023 AFC North Division Preview

The sand in the hour glass has reached its end and the 2023 season is here. The AFC North Division is arguably the toughest division in football and I have the wonderful pleasure of breaking this division down. Read on as we continue our series of 2023 NFL Division previews and see who we have coming on top in the North.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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Key Additions: Broderick Jones (OT / Georgia), Keeanu Benton (DT / Wisconsin), Joey Porter Jr (DB / Penn State) Nick Herbig (LB / Wisconsin) Isaac Seumalo (G / Free Agency) Patrick Peterson (CB / Free Agency)

Key Losses: Cam Sutton (DB / Lions) Terrell Edmunds (CB / Eagles) Robert Spillane (LB / Raiders)

Biggest Strength:

The Steelers have attacked this offseason with a mission to improve their LB room and their offensive line. It’s fair to say they have accomplished both tasks given how both groups have looked through team development and the preseason. QB Kenny Pickett now leads an offense that’s expected to make a tremendous jump from his 2nd year. We’ve all seen the blazing speed of Calvin Austin III (2nd year) the speactacular catches by George Pickens (2nd year), and the back field balance from Najee Harris (3rd year) and Jaylen Warren (2nd year). Offensive coordinator Matt Canada now has no excuses, this offense has to produce or he will be looking for work in 2024.

Biggest Question Mark:

Health, now before the “boo-birds” say “Serious, that’s a cop out answer” let me break it down like this. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 8-2, giving up a league low 16 points a game when star DE TJ Watt is healthy and plays. On the flip side the Steelers give up 25 points a game and are 2-8 when he doesn’t play. So for the Steelers is really comes down to health. This offseason the Steelers spent a ton of draft capital and free agent capital adding depth on both sides of the ball (in hopes the team could sustain an injury) but this team will go as far as number 90 and number 39 take them.

Record Projection: 11-6

Baltimore Ravens

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Key Additions: Odell Beckham Jr (WR / Free Agent), Nelson Agholor (WR / Patriots), Arthur Maulet (DB / Steelers) Jadeveon Clowney (LB / Browns) Zay Flowers, (WR / Boston College) Trenton Simpson, (LB / Clemson)

Key Losses: Justin Houston (LB / Panthers), Marcus Peters (DB / Raiders) Calais Campbell (DL / Falcons)

Biggest Strength:

The Ravens have one of the most unconventional styles of play, it almost looks like they found a way to marry both the college and pro game. Having QB Lamar Jackson under contract for the next several years finally gives this team stability and the ability to play their brand of football. For the longest time the knock on the Ravens is that they have never surrounded Lamar with legitimate weapons in the WR room to help him. With the key additions they made this offseason, that excuse is no longer valid. The Ravens are going to run the football but now with a new offensive coordinator Todd Monken now calling the plays, there’s hope that the ball will be spread around to his new targets more often.

Biggest Question Mark:

One of the biggest issues with the Ravens over the past few seasons has been their play on the offensive line. QB Lamar Jackson has been hit an excessive amount of times, and has caused him to miss the last part of the season in 2 consecutive seasons, is that OL able to hold up? Another major question is on the defensive side of the ball (yes, you read that correctly). Gone are the days of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed manning this team. Last year this team ranked 26th vs the run, and 27th vs the pass (stats provided by Can this defense get back to placing fear into the hearts of opponents?

Record Projection: 9-8

Cleveland Browns

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Key Additions: Za'Darius Smith (LB / Vikings) Elijah Moore (WR / Jets) Cedric Tillman (WR / Tennessee)

Key Losses: Jadeveon Clowney (LB / Ravens) Jacoby Brissett (QB / Commanders) Kareem Hunt (RB / Free Agent)

Biggest Strength:

Time, the Browns have had a full offseason with QB Deshaun Watson fully integrated into their program. The hope is that he will return to his 2020 form (where he posted his best statistical season). Adding more weapons to a solid core on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball should take pressure off Kevin Stefanski. The offense should be more fluent and the defense should be better.

Biggest Question Mark:

Honestly, this team is a HUGE question mark. The potential is there for this team to make noise in the division, or even the conference. But, are they all going to be able to put it all together? Gone are the days of having a duel backfield as the Browns have moved on from RB Kareem Hunt. Can Nick Chubb now step into a role where he’s going to have to (not only) be a runner, but a pass receiver as well? A huge question mark is the defensive secondary. CB Denzel Ward has been in and out of the lineup, making the job of covering WR’s more difficult.

Record Projection: 6-11

Cincinnati Bengals

Photo Credit: GettyImages/AP

Key Additions: Orlando Brown (OL / Chefs) Irv Smith Jr (TE / Vikings) Myles Murphy (DE / Clemson) Jordan Battle (DB / Alabama)

Key Losses: Jessie Bates III (DB / Falcons) Von Bell (DB / Panthers) Eli Apple (DB / Dolphins)

Biggest Strength:

When you have the highest paid QB clicking with his college teammate, magic happens. This team is extremely opportunistic and can run with the best of them. At all three phases this Cincinnati Bengals team has a unique skill set of being able to apply pressure to their opponents, making them extremely difficult to game player for and subsequently defeat. The Bengals have arguably the best group of skill position players in the league, led by star WR Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon.

Biggest Question Mark:

This Cincinnati Bengals team will go as far as their office of line takes them over the course of the past two seasons. No quarterback has been hit more than Joe Burrow. Their ability to stay on schedule keep the quarterback clean, as well as providing significant running lanes for Joe Mixon will go along way in helping the Cincinnati Bengals finally get over the hump. Head Coach Zac Taylor has to get this team to the promise land as he was the next big thing at head coach a few seasons ago.

Record Projection: 12-5

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