AFC North focus – can the Bengals do it again?

The NFL regular season is still two months away, but preseason kicks off in a few short weeks. Already, the pundits, armchair experts and bookmakers are weighing in on who will be hot and who will not in the 2022/23 season. In some divisions, it doesn’t demand precognitive powers. For example, it will be a major shock if the Bills do not dominate the AFC East, and Green Bay are unlikely to relinquish the stranglehold they have had on the NFC North for the past decade.  

Of all the divisions, one of the most intriguing to call this year will be the AFC North. Traditionally, it’s been a case of the Steelers edging out the Ravens while the Bengals and Browns lurch from one disaster to the next. But the past two or three seasons have seen tradition thrown out of the window. Let’s take a look at the protagonists.  

Cincinnati Bengals  

It still feels like some mistake referring to the Bengals as the defending AFC Champions. Last year, they were not even fancied for the playoffs. Still, there’s no denying that the force is strong in Joe Burrows and Ja’Marr Chase, and they have strengthened that brittle offensive line during the off season. A glance at the football betting on Unibet USA shows they are torn between the Bengals and the Ravens for the AFC North, and have both at around +200.  

Baltimore Ravens  

The Ravens underachieved last year, but look stronger for 2022/23, especially now that the conspiracy theories about Lamar Jackson seem to have been put to bed. There are feelings that this could just be a season of redemption for the Ravens, but there are plenty of unanswered questions, especially on offense, and someone is going to have to stand up and be counted as the next Marquise Brown or there could be another season of disappointment and underachievement. 

Cleveland Browns 

Disappointment and under achievement are all part of the routine at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns spent so many years propping up the AFC North, they have yet to master the habit of winning. Last year fell apart as the love affair with Baker Mayfield came to an end, and once again, off-field quarterback problems could be the biggest barrier to success for the Browns. Deshaun Watson seems certain to face a long suspension, and there are even rumors that Mayfield could return in the interim. If the Browns can keep their game face on in the middle, however, they could be the surprise story of the year.  

Pittsburgh Steelers  

Last year, Pittsburgh scraped a playoff berth by the skin of their teeth and were quickly dispatched by the Chiefs. This year is going to be one of rebuilding, with two new wide receivers gathered in the draft for what will be an entirely new look offense. The Steelers also picked up local quarterback Kenny Pickett, but the general consensus is that Mitch Trubisky will start. Either way, the Steelers will do well if they can achieve a winning season and are unlikely to be close to the playo

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