What lies ahead for the AFC North
At the midpoint of the 2023 NFL season, the AFC North finds itself the most competitive division in the NFL. If the postseason were to start following Week 9, all four teams from the AFC North would be in the playoffs. While this is noteworthy at this point of the season, it will be difficult for all four teams to stay in this position due to how many division games they still have left.
Even with the Baltimore Ravens holding the advantage this time, any of these four teams could win the division. What comes in play the most will be how these teams perform down the stretch.
Before looking at what remains for each team for the rest of the season, here’s a quick reminder of the AFC North standings with each teams overall record in division record:
Baltimore Ravens: 7-2 (DIV: 2-1)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-3 (DIV: 2-0)
Cleveland Browns: 5-3 (DIV: 1-2)
Cincinnati Bengals: 5-3 (DIV: 0-2)
It should be noted the Baltimore Ravens are the only AFC North team yet to have their bye week, hence why they have a two-game advantage in the win column but only one when it comes to losses.
So who has the easiest schedule remaining for these NFC North teams? Based on the current record of the remaining opponents, there are several different ways to look at things. First, let’s look at how many matchups each team has remaining against teams with winning records, .500 records, and losing records:
Current record of remaining opponents (Winning, Even, Losing):
BAL (6, 1, 1)
PIT (5, 0, 4)
CLE (4, 2, 3)
CIN (7, 1, 1)
Based on this information, the remaining schedule is more difficult for both the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals. The other two teams in the division, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, have a very similar breakdown of teams remaining and have a greater number of games against teams who are below .500 at this time.
Another way to look at things is by looking at the combined records of the teams each member of the AFC North still has to face:
Combined record of remaining opponents (Win-Loss, Winning Percentage)
BAL (39-27, .591)
PIT (37-39, .487)
CLE (39-36, .520)
CIN (48-28, .632)
Based on this information, it’s the Steelers who have the weakest opponents remaining based on overall record. This doesn’t mean they have more teams who are under .500, it actually goes to show that the Steelers have a couple games remaining against teams that have some of the worst records in the NFL. As for the Cincinnati Bengals, they have the strongest opponents remaining which isn’t surprising saying they have to play the first place schedule after winning the division in 2022.
So do these numbers mean the Steelers have a greater chance to win the division? While it is true statistically, there are plenty of other factors involved. Perhaps the biggest factor of all is the fact that each one of these teams has at least one more game remaining against every other team in the division and the Steelers and Bengals still have two more matchups.
These standings will evolve week by week. Taking it one game at a time, here are the matchups for the AFC North this week:
Week 10 matchups:
BAL (7-2) vs. CLE (5-3)
PIT (5-3) vs. GB (3-5)
CIN (5-3) vs. HOU (4-4)
Because the Ravens and Browns play each other this week, there can’t be a repeat of Week 9 where the AFC North swept their opponents. And despite having lesser matchups, the Steelers and Bengals each are looking to take care of their business at home this week.
The AFC North is still up for grabs for any of the four teams. While the Baltimore Ravens have put themselves in the best position at this time, whichever team gets hot down the stretch will likely end up Kings of the North for 2023.