Without a doubt, the AFC North will be one of the toughest divisions in the NFL this season.
The Ravens, Steelers, and Browns will all compete for a playoff spot, and the Bengals will be wildly entertaining due to No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow’s arrival to Cincinnati.
A deeper dive into each franchise will be imperative for a better understanding of how this divisional race will play out in 2020.
Can Anyone Stop Lamar?
The Baltimore Ravens have their eyes set on another division title next season, as Lamar Jackson and company seek redemption for their disappointing effort in last year’s divisional round.
John Harbaugh’s group returns a plethora of starters on both sides of the football, and the additions of defensive end Calais Campbell and offensive tackle DJ Fluker will go a long way in fortifying the team’s front lines.
The Ravens were dismantled up front in the trenches last January when Derrick Henry ran for nearly 200 yards, as the Titans went on to dethrone the top seed in the AFC.
That loss will fuel a Ravens bunch that will be focused and determined to avenge last year’s postseason disappointment.
Expect Baltimore to cruise to another division crown in 2020, as Bovada currently has their odds set at -190 to repeat as AFC North champions.
Big Ben’s Return
Pittsburgh will be one of the more fascinating teams to look out for this season. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers contend for another Super Bowl in 2020.
Bovada has their odds currently set at +350 to win their division, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them challenge the Ravens all year long.
A healthy Ben Roethlisberger will help stabilize an offense that was nothing short of anemic last season, as quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges struggled to sustain any sort of momentum in 2019.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s defense should remain an elite group under head coach Mike Tomlin, as TJ Watt was able to cement himself as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate last season.
Tomlin will undoubtedly have his hands full in what figures to be a much-improved division. However, a healthy Big Ben supplemented with a stout defense should be well equipped to handle whatever comes their way in 2020.
Put up or Shut up for Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns, for better or worse, will be one of the biggest storylines in football next season.
After a disappointing 2019 campaign, third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield will be under the microscope in 2020.
New head coach Kevin Stefanski was hired this past offseason to groom Mayfield into the franchise quarterback the Browns thought they were getting when they selected him No. 1 overall back in 2018.
Baker has yet to back up his frivolous offseason chatter and is now walking on thin ice amongst the Cleveland faithful.
However, the free-agent acquisitions of offensive tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper will make things much easier for the young quarterback, as he now has no excuses this season.
The Browns also drafted Alabama left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. with the 10th pick in the NFL Draft to help solidify an offensive line that struggled at times throughout last season.
It is difficult to project a team that has such a talented roster but has yet to prove anything on the field, so I am on the fence as to where I believe the Browns end up in 2020.
An 8-8 record seems like a fair projection for now, but as we all know, things can drastically change after a few weeks of football.
Pencil the Browns in as a fringe playoff team in 2020.
New Era in Cincy
The Cincinnati Bengals’ future rides on one man’s shoulders: Joe Burrow.
This franchise has so long craved a prospect of Burrow’s status, as they need someone who can bring hope to an organization that is desperate for positivity.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, a stretch of three decades.
Burrow will be mentored by second-year head coach Zac Taylor, who was praised by Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay for his bright offensive mind when he left the organization last offseason.
Hopefully, this tandem can help rejuvenate the city of Cincinnati, as this is a fanbase starved for success.
It will be a developmental year for this young roster, and it is incredibly unfair to expect a postseason berth in 2020, but this doesn’t mean that Burrow and company won’t win some football games next year.
Expect Cincinnati to be a tough out all season long in what figures to be a crowded AFC North.
- Baltimore Ravens: 12-4 (-190)
- Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7 (+350)
- Cleveland Browns: 8-8 (+475)
- Cincinnati Bengals: 5-11 (+2000)
You’d be hard-pressed to pick anybody but Baltimore to represent the AFC North in next year’s postseason.
Nonetheless, look out for Pittsburgh and Cleveland to potentially make the playoffs as Wild Card teams given the expanded postseason format in 2020.