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Cincinnati Bengals: 4 way too early predictions for the AFC North

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Cincinnati Bengals, Tyler Boyd(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals, Tyler Boyd(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 08: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers gestures to the sideline during the game between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 08: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers gestures to the sideline during the game between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s all about Big Ben. If Roethlisberger is healthy, the Steelers win this division by two games. If he’s not, the Ravens easily repeat.

The AFC North isn’t complicated, not by a long shot. With Pittsburgh at full strength, they have the ability to go toe-to-toe with Baltimore as no one else can. Roethlisberger, who is definitely closer to the end than the beginning, is the kind of difference-maker that can beat Baltimore and win the North.

When healthy, Big Ben is still that good. Good enough to beat the Ravens, good enough to win the division, and good enough to make one more playoff push and another Super Bowl run. In 2019, the Steelers were down to a third-string quarterback and still got close to the playoffs. In 2020, they push back on a good but not great Ravens team and make an argument as a long-shot contender for the Lombardi Trophy.

From top to bottom, the AFC North isn’t complicated. It is, for all intents and purposes, a two-team race. When healthy and with Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh is still a contender.

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2020 will not be a year of surprises in the division. Cleveland, a media darling a season ago, might be a “surprise” in only being such a disaster from Week 1. The Cincinnati Bengals will be better and perhaps the most interesting team to watch given a change at quarterback. But the contenders are Pittsburgh and Baltimore, in that order. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

2020 record: 11-5

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