Our 2021 NFL Division Prediction Series takes us to arguably the toughest division in the league based on what teams were in the playoffs last year.
The AFC North is full of intriguing teams and big name players that define them. Between the resurgence of long-time lovable loser to a team filled with drama, this isn’t your ordinary division.
Let’s see where they all rack up.
Baltimore has a great mix for a team. They have flash, skill, defensive mindset, and balance.
However even after beating the Tennessee Titans in the AFC playoffs last year, they’re still trying to figure out how to go deep in the playoffs.
The Ravens believe upgrading at wide receiver may help their cause, and they got one. Baltimore selected Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman to be one of the key targets for Jackson.
Other off-season moves they made were resigning linebackers Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee and bringing in guard Kevin Zietler.
They’re expected to go deep in the playoffs every year, but with how their division is now, it’s gonna be a big if. Just hope they have everything in form.
The Joe Burrow era with the Cincinnati Bengals is off to a rocky start, especially after their new quarterback got injured to end his season last November.
Cincinnati approached the 2021 offseason not just to focus on protecting Burrow, but to provide with as much weapons as they can muster.
Along with drafting LSU wideout Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals also brought in defensive end Trey Hendrickson, free safety Ricardo Allen, and offensive tackle Riley Reiff to solidify those plans.
The Bengals are not expected to compete in the division this year, but Cincy fans would like to see the team go in the right direction. Mid single number for wins is potentially the upside for this team.
Speaking of Ohio NFL teams, the Cleveland Browns are going in the opposite direction of their rivals down south.
After qualifying for the playoffs last season, the Cleveland Browns got even themselves a win and even fought hard against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Game. The team has potential to go far. And their moves prove it.
Though they didn’t have much to fix on the team, the Browns loaded on defense by signing Rams safety John Johnson and cornerback Troy Hill and brought in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to a deal. They also had drafted cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker/defensive end Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah for depth.
Cleveland is very much in the right direction, a far cry from a few seasons ago. The sky’s the limit for them, but can they keep their momentum going? With how their team is constructed, it’ll be a resounding yes or a disappointing no.
The Pittsburgh Steelers can described in two words: drama filled. Both on the field and off.
From TikTok controversy to Twitter spats, it was less than original for its players and organization.
The Steelers got some things resolved as they resigned controversial wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to a brief extension, along with selecting Alabama running back Najee Harris to shore up their running back corps.
Their defense remains okay even though they lost pass rusher Bud Dupree to free agency. Pittsburgh acquired linebacker Joe Schobert via trade and resigned defensive end Tyson Alualu to help that void.
Pittsburgh should remain as division contenders, but it’s a strong belief that’s all the far they’ll go. As along as each player keeps their head in check in time to play, they can fulfill their goal.
PROJECTED 2021 AFC NORTH DIVISION STANDINGS
- Cleveland Browns 12-5**
- Baltimore Ravens 10-7*
- Pittsburgh Steelers 9-8
- Cincinatti Bengals 4-13
Cleveland and Baltimore are going to be neck-and-neck all season for the division lead, but by the final week, it’s predicted that the Browns take the division with the Ravens being in the Wild Card.
Even with their defense led by All-Pro TJ Watt, Pittsburgh is going to be stagnant finishing outside the playoff bracket, and Cincinnati are going to be rebuilding a little bit more and finish with a 4-13 record.