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The AFC North is a midnight minefield

The most difficult schedules in the NFL for 2024 are all in the same division. According to the 2023 combined winning percentage of this year’s opponents, the AFC North boasts the three toughest paths for the upcoming season.

Cleveland tops the list. Baltimore is second. Pittsburgh is third. The Bengals — who have the fourth shortest odds to win the Super Bowl — have a middle-of-the-road strength of schedule (16th). But by over/under projected 2024 win totals, Cincinnati’s opponents this year add up to 27th — giving the Bengals the sixth easiest avenue for this season.

And when ranking by win totals, the Steelers schedule is the toughest. The Browns are No. 3. And the Ravens are fourth. New England, a franchise experiencing turmoil and uncertainty like a marathoner in a sports bra that doesn’t fit, would be second by that metric.

The meat grinder that is the AFC North will undoubtedly be tougher than leather jerky made from a junkyard steer. But there’s good news in the division too.

The Steelers made the playoffs in 2023 despite questionable quarterback play and the league’s second hardest schedule. The Ravens were the one seed in the AFC and had the NFL’s best record with the fifth toughest road.

The good news for Browns fans is that Cleveland had the third most difficult schedule last season and won 11 of their first 16 games while starting four different QBs (their playoff seeding was set prior to the final weekend). And the Bengals finished last year 9-8 while navigating the league’s toughest 2023 slate without Joe Burrow for much of that campaign.

A lot of importance can be heaped onto the involution of scheduling. But there are unforseen circumstances that arise throughout the course of each season. There are underachievers and overachievers every year. Here’s to your team and mine; let’s have a fantastic 2024!



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