Bengals’ path to repeating in AFC North made more difficult

Zac Taylor, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Zac Taylor, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals surprised everyone when they not only competed in the AFC North last year but ended up winning it for the first time since 2015. They capped off their magical season with a trip to the Super Bowl but unfortunately fell to the Rams in heartbreaking fashion.

While fans felt pretty confident about the team contending in the division — and the stacked conference — this year, the news of Deshaun Watson joining the Cleveland Browns has thrown everyone for a loop.

It felt like Watson was going to pick between the Saints and the Falcons but shocked everyone when he chose the Browns, even after eliminating them the day before.

Watson joining the AFC North makes this division even tougher and it’s going to be really tough for the Bengals to repeat in their division.

A year ago, the AFC North was said to be one of the — if not the — toughest divisions in football but it ended up being a bit of a disappointment. The Ravens battled injuries all season while the Browns were one of the most inconsistent teams in the league.

While the Bengals won the division fair and square, they didn’t run away with it by any means. They also struggled against the Browns in the two’s first meeting midseason (we won’t talk about Week 18 since Cincy had their backups out there) and that was with an injured Baker Mayfield on the field.

AFC North is tougher with Deshaun Watson’s addition

While Bengals fans hate to compliment the Browns and vice versa, Cleveland had a roster that looked ready to compete for a title last year. The biggest holdup was Mayfield’s injuries and inconsistencies but now that isn’t a problem.

The Ravens are also new and improved, as I wrote about the other day. They’ve had a near-perfect free agency and if they can stay healthy, they’re in contention to make a run at the division title as well.

While the Steelers are the odd team out, I’m never going to count out Mike Tomlin. He’s won games even with Duck Hodges and a washed-up Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky might not be any good, but he’s better than either of those guys. Don’t be surprised if this division is just as competitive as the AFC West should be this year.

"Cincinnati Bengals: All-time passing leaders in franchise history"

Should be fun to watch.