AFC North 2023 Division Preview: Will Lamar Show His MVP Form?

Nate Hornung

Written by: Nate Hornung

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Read Time: 6 minutes

AFC North 2023 Division Preview: Will Lamar Show His MVP Form? cover


The AFC North is set to be one of the NFL’s most competitive divisions this upcoming season.

With Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow already battling out the title, add in Deshaun Watson and whatever Mike Tomlin has cooking in Pittsburgh for completely stellar division.

This page will serve as an AFC North Preview, complete with:

  • Individual Team Breakdowns
  • Overview of the AFC North
  • Best Divisional Futures

AFC North History

AFC North Preview

Despite the Cincinnati Bengals winning the division the past two years, they are still far behind the Steelers for most AFC North titles.

Here are the current standings amongst these four teams.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (24)
  • Cincinnati Bengals (11)
  • Cleveland Browns (6)
  • Baltimore Ravens (6)

The Browns have been bad for a while. They made the playoffs and even won a playoff game in 2020, but they have not been competitive in this division.

Cleveland has not won a divisional title since 1989, before it was even called the AFC North.

On the other side of things, the Ravens have won four out of their six titles since 2011, making them much better over recent years.

Mike Tomlin and the Steelers had a stranglehold on the division for a while, winning 10 divisional titles since 2001.

But after moving on from Big Ben, the Steelers now rely on Kenny Pickett to lead them to victory.

AFC North Betting Odds

Here are the current odds to win the division according to Bovada.

  • Cincinnati Bengals (+150)
  • Baltimore Ravens (+225)
  • Cleveland Browns (+375)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (+475)

Let’s breakdown each team individually!

Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC North Preview

In my humble opinion, this is the most important guy in the Pittsburgh locker room.

Mike Tomlin has been with this team since 2007 and has seen plenty of ups and downs, but the bottom line?

He knows how to win.

And he’s able to find ways to do it, regardless of the personnel on his staff.

Now, the Steelers were 26th in scoring offense last season, but they did have a top 10 defense.

All eyes are on Kenny Pickett and his performance.

Will Pickett Be Enough?

I’m not quite convinced Kenny Pickett is the answer to the Steelers problems, but we will give it one more year.

They have talent, on both sides of the ball.

Najee Harris and George Pickens are two young studs on this offense, as well as veteran Diontae Johnson.

On defense, T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward guard the trenches while Minkah Fitzpatrick and newly added DB Patrick Peterson control the secondary.

The Steelers have a lot of the right pieces, it will simply be a matter of whether or not Pickett can play up to the level they need him to.

Cleveland Browns

AFC North Preview

All eyes are on this guy as the Browns head into another season. They’ve been at the bottom of the AFC North barrel for a long time now, and fans in the Dawg Pound are eager to have a good season.

Baker Mayfield led the Browns to their first playoff berth since 2002 back in 2020, and they even upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1st round.

The signing of Deshaun Watson came with plenty of controversy, but he will be back commanding this Cleveland offense this fall.

The Browns were middle of the pack in both offense and defense last year, but they did make couple additions on the defensive side of the ball.

Can Cleveland Compete with Burrow and Lamar?

Myles Garrett is back on the DL, but in the secondary the Browns acquired FS Juan Thornhill from the Kansas City Chiefs.

This adds some depth to a secondary that was Top 5 in Opponents Passing Yards per game last season.

With Amari Cooper, Nick Chubb and now Deshaun Watson headlining the offense, this could be a division winning squad. David Njoku is a solid TE, and there could be worse role WR than Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones.

All in all, the Browns should have their minds set on a playoff berth this season, but unfortunately I do not see them competing with the Bengals or Ravens for the division title.

Cincinnati Bengals

AFC North Preview

The Bengals are the clear top dog in the AFC North, and it will be tough for anyone to take them down.

Cincinnati has been to two straight AFC Championships following two straight division titles, but Joe Burrow has yet to win a Super Bowl.

The Bengals have a ridiculous receiving core, headlined by Ja’Marr Chase. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd round out arguably the best trio of receivers in the NFL.

It will be up to Burrow to get this team over the hump this year.

Will the Bengals Come Up Just Short.. Again?

The Bengals had a Top 5 scoring defense in the NFL last year. They’ve beaten Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs 3 out of 4 games, yet they still haven’t really won anything.

Yes, Joe Burrow is a Top 5, probably Top 3 quarterback in the league, but it takes more to win a Super Bowl.

The Bengals did sign LT Orlando Brown Jr. after he did not resign with Kansas City, beefing up the protection for Burrow, and making it easier to get to Mahomes.

Overall, this Bengals team is the one to beat in the division, yet I think someone else might claim the AFC North this year.

Baltimore Ravens

AFC North Preview

Lamar Jackson is on a mission this year.

After winning the MVP in unanimous fashion in 2019, Jackson has had a rough couple of years. He will be playing under the franchise tag this year, as if he needed even more motivation to go off this year.

The biggest question mark for Jackson and the Ravens has been the receiving core, but they may have fixed those problems.

Rashod Bateman is still with the squad, but the additions of FA Odell Beckham Jr. and Rookie Zay Flowers help round out the WR room.

Mark Andrews is a fantastic TE, and J.K Dobbins has potential if he can stay healthy.

MVP Jackson

Baltimore’s defense was Top 3 in the NFL last year, but their offense struggled to score.

With some nice WR additions, I like Jackson to return to his MVP form and lead these Ravens to their first division title since 2019.

Lamar is without a doubt one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the league, and the best runner of them all. His playmaking ability is up there with the top of the league, and I Baltimore has all the pieces to get it done this year.

AFC North Futures

Baltimore Ravens to Win the Division (+225) Bovada

AFC North Preview

The Ravens have the best defense in the division. They have the best PLAYMAKING Quarterback in the division (Lamar is more versatile than Burrow), and now they have a competitive receiving core.

I think they finally have all the tools to be successful in the AFC, and I think Jackson and Harbaugh could lead this team deep in the playoffs.

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Nate Hornung
Nate Hornung

Nate has been a recreational sports bettor for about 5 years. In that time, he has grown to love the pursuit of winners and sticking it to The Man. Nate loves data and uses his understanding of numbers to help him be a more profitable sports gambler, however he will be the first to tell you this game is about more than just stats.

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