NFL Predictions 2023: How will the AFC North shake out?

Will the Bengals win the AFC North for the third straight year?
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (88) catches a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (88) catches a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

The AFC North might just be the toughest division in the NFL so when the Cincinnati Bengals have donned the division champ hats and t-shirts the past two seasons, there's no doubt that they've earned the division title. The AFC North is going to be a gauntlet once again but that just means it'll prepare the Bengals for the playoffs and hopefully the Super Bowl.

How might the AFC North shake out in 2023? Let's take our best guess.

Strength of schedule provided by Sharp Football Analysis

4. Cleveland Browns

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the Browns did okay this year but in a division as tough as the AFC North, 'okay' won't be enough for them to make a realistic push toward the playoffs. The Browns' schedule is right in the middle when it comes to the difficulty level so it really just depends on Deshaun Watson and if he improves with his new team this year.

Unfortunately for the Browns, someone has to come in last in the division and it very well could be them.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

Bengals fans hate the Steelers but it's hard to deny how well-run that organization has been throughout its existence. Pittsburgh hasn't had a losing record since 2003 and considering Mike Tomlin has been there since 2007, that means the guy hasn't had a single losing season. That's impressive.

Clearly, Tomlin is good enough to coach the Steelers to non-losing seasons but making the playoffs could be a different story. If Kenny Pickett improves in year 2, the Steelers could be a surprise team in 2023. If he's still making the same rookie mistakes from the 2022 season, perhaps Pittsburgh finishes in the basement of the division.

I'm betting on Coach Tomlin to at least keep the Steelers out of the cellar in 2023. It also helps that they have the eighth-easiest schedule this year.

2. Baltimore Ravens

It's not farfetched to say if the Ravens hadn't had a slew of injuries the past two years (with the biggest coming to Lamar Jackson) that they'd have been crowned AFC North champions instead of the Bengals. Injuries have been the Ravens' biggest obstacle in 2021 and 2022 so until they prove they can stay healthy, I can't pick them to win the division.

That being said, this is a really talented team. Jackson signed an extension so he's sticking around in the AFC North for the next half decade, they drafted Zay Flowers in the first round, signed Odell Beckham Jr., and their defense is going to be a force to be reckoned with once again.

Throw in that John Harbaugh has only had two losing seasons since taking over in 2008 and it's clear that the Ravens are a consistent franchise who will contend more often than not.


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1. Cincinnati Bengals

Yes, this is a Bengals site, but even if it wasn't, how can someone not pick the Bengals to win the AFC North in 2023? Have you seen this roster?

First and foremost, as long as Joe Burrow is the quarterback of the Bengals, they have a chance to contend for a Super Bowl. The wide receivers are still the best in the NFL, Lou Anarumo didn't leave for a head coaching job, and the team spent their draft resources on making the defense even better.

The middle portion of the Bengals' schedule is tough but somehow they have a slightly easier schedule than Baltimore so that should put them over the top when it comes to winning the AFC North.