AFC Northern Powers Rankings Before Week 1 Kicks Off: Brown has something to prove
Brown has a lot to prove before they can rise to the top of the list
It’s not easy being the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North. The other three teams have managed well, for the most part, for at least two years (Cincinnati) or much longer (Baltimore, Pittsburgh). The Browns, as loyal fans know, are rarely crushed by anything but the ground.
As we present our first weekly ranking of the AFC North powerhouse, it’s important to remember that we focus on what we saw on the pitch, what was proven and what each team’s record shows us. Based on 2022 and no team in the division blowing its core, Cleveland fans won’t be happy with the raw ratings.
The good news is that this is the first of many strength ratings:
1. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)
Week 1 game: at Cleveland Browns (0-0)
It is very difficult to place the two-time defending AFC North Champions anywhere other than first in these preliminary rankings. The Bengals bring back the majority of their talent on offense, including adding offensive tackle Orlando Brown.
The Bengals defense will be a different story. They lost two starting safeties in the off-season (Jesse Bates And Von Bell) So the secondary question may be the biggest question for them pre-season in a division that prides itself on the likes of it Odell Beckham Jr, Amari Cooper And George Pickens.
Their entire season will hinge on how well their attack does as they will likely find themselves in a penalty shootout for most of the season.
2. Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
Week 1 Match: vs Houston Tx (0-0)
The Baltimore Ravens have a lot of new additions to their offense in 2023 including new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr And G flowers While signing a new five-year, $260 million contract Lamar Jackson.
One lingering question over the last two seasons is whether their running backs can stay healthy. JK Dobbins And Gus Edwards He has been constantly plagued by injuries over the past two years and that has taken its toll on the Ravens’ speedy offense.
Much like the Bengals, there are questions on defense to start the season. Teus Bowser Will miss at least the first four games (including Week 4 against the Browns) being an NFI-listed cornerback Marlon Humphrey Still recovering from recent foot surgery.
We’ll see how the new additions to the attack will integrate with Monken. And that will define the Crows this season.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
Week 1 Match: vs San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
It was very difficult to put the Browns in that position or in the fourth position to start the season, but if there’s been one thing that’s been constant since 2007, it’s not betting against Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While the Steelers haven’t won a playoff game since 2016, they haven’t finished below . 500 in Mike Tomlin’s entire tenure.
The defense has always been the Steelers’ strong point and it will always be with the likes of it TJ Watt, Minka Fitzpatrick And Alex Highsmith. Where the questions lie with the Steelers if Kenny Beckett, along with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, can build on what a stellar pre-season the QB’s had. Surrounded by arms, Beckett is on the offensive Nagy Harris, George Pickens And Deonte Johnson But the offensive line has been the biggest question in recent years.
Will the Steelers be able to run the ball and protect Beckett when needed? we will see.
4. Cleveland Browns (0-0)
Week 1 Match: vs Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)
Now Brown fans don’t worry. This pre-season ranking for the Browns is not due to the talent on the roster, there is no doubting how talented the Browns are. This classification in the North Asian region is more of a “proof-it” nature. Andrew Barry and the Browns front office have compiled the best Browns roster since the team’s comeback in 1999 but there is still one lingering question that will determine the fate of the entire season.
Quarterback will Deshaun Watson Returning to a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback who was in Houston and being able to pull off Kevin Stefanski’s offense? And while Watson is said to have the keys to the crime, we’ll see if the crime buzzes like a sports car or stalls like a toy car with a dead battery. There are a lot of guns surrounding Watson, and it is up to him to get the ball and be in the top 10 players in the league.
The Browns defense along with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will look like a much improved unit this season and will be tested right out of the gate by Joe Burrow and Bengal. The question for the defense to start the season is will Denzel Ward Will he be available for Sunday’s game with the Bengals after returning to practice on Wednesday? Time will tell. if not, Greg Newsom And Martin Emerson Jr He will have to apply immediately to start the season.
How do you rate the AFC North rankings to date, before any matches start? Join the conversation in the comments section below: