AFC North Predictions NFL 2022-23: Odds, Picks, and Projections

Our Pro Pick on the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers AFC North Matchup

The Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) had a bye week, but we’ll see if they can figure out how to get a win in a division game. They have already gone 0-3 against the Steelers, Ravens, and Browns this season.

None of those losses were more soul-crushing than against the Steelers in Week 1. Despite Joe Burrow turning the ball over five times and taking seven sacks, he threw what should have been a game-winning touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase with two seconds left. But due to the emergency long snapper being in the game after an injury, the Bengals botched the extra point.

The Bengals also blew a 29-yard field goal in overtime that would have won the game. The Steelers made a 53-yard field goal to win 23-20, the best example of a game this season decided by a superior kicking operation.

But Pittsburgh’s defense was nasty in that one, the only game all year where T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick played together. Watt finally returned Sunday in a 20-10 win over the Saints, but Fitzpatrick was out with an appendectomy. He is looking to return this week, which is bad news for Burrow, who threw a pick-six to Fitzpatrick to start this season.

No Chase (hip) for the Bengals and the duo of Watt and Fitzpatrick for Pittsburgh should be enough to keep this one close again and in favor of the Steelers, who are incredible as a home underdog under Mike Tomlin (9-1 ATS since 2018).

AFC North Prediction: Steelers +4.5 vs. Bengals (-110 at BetMGM)

Our Best Bet on Who Will Win AFC North in 2023

The Bengals surprised everyone last year by winning the division with a 10-7 record, their first time finishing first in the AFC North standings since 2015. They also won their first playoff games since the 1990 season.

The Steelers should take a step back after the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger and an absurd 9-2-1 record in close games last season. The Browns are stuck with an 11-game suspension of Deshaun Watson and face a very tough schedule with Jacoby Brissett as the starter.

But the team to watch is the Baltimore Ravens, who have the best odds to win the AFC North this year after having the most injuries of any team in the last two decades. They also lost a ton of close games down the stretch without Lamar Jackson, who is back and is still one of the best in the game. This team should rebound in a big way.

AFC North Predictions: Baltimore Ravens to win the division (-500 at FanDuel)

For more on where the other AFC races stand, check out our pages for the AFC South, AFC East, and AFC West.

Steelers vs. Browns prediction

The Current State of the AFC North

How are the AFC North teams looking as we head into Week 12?

Cincinnati Bengals: Super Bowl Hangover?

When wide receiver Tyler Boyd was asked how the Bengals have turned around their rivalry with the Steelers, he simply said “We have Joe Burrow.” If not for a blocked extra point in Week 1, the Bengals would have five straight wins over the Steelers. They’ll just have to settle for Burrow already having as many wins as Andy Dalton had against Pittsburgh in a decade. Burrow had one of the best road games of his career with 355 yards and four touchdowns, doing it without Ja’Marr Chase and barely any time with Joe Mixon (concussion).

Now we’ll see if he can recreate his upset of the Titans on the road from the playoffs last year this Sunday in Tennessee. Chase is returning to the practice field, but it is undetermined if he will play this Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens: Positive Regression

The Ravens struggled as a 13-point favorite at home against Carolina, but they still found a way to become the sixth team since 1940 to hold a double-digit lead in their first 10 games. The Ravens may not wow anyone with that 13-3 win, but Lamar Jackson built some chemistry with Demarcus Robinson (caught all nine targets for 128 yards), and that could be huge for a team that will need all the passing firepower it can have come playoff time. At least the defense held a weak opponent to a single field goal.

Cleveland Browns: For Shame

The Browns got to avoid Buffalo’s blizzard for Detroit’s dome, but they left their running game in Cleveland. Nick Chubb was held to 19 yards on 14 carries, his worst rushing game of his pro career. At least Jacoby Brissett passed for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, but it was too little too late as the Browns fell to 3-7. Now with a game against the Buccaneers this team could easily be 3-8 by the time Deshaun Watson is allowed to play next week in Houston. If they lose that one, they are going to be the laughingstock of the league for this year.

Pittsburgh Steelers: New Era Begins

The good news: Pittsburgh’s offense does not have a turnover in the last two games, and the Steelers finally scored two touchdowns that were longer than 8 yards. The bad news: Kenny Pickett is not doing a good job in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. In a 27-23 game, the Steelers twice had a first down inside the Cincinnati 40 and each drive ended with a punt. That is inexcusable. Now we get to see the Steelers in prime time in Indy on Monday night, but at 3-7, this team is an afterthought in the AFC race.

AFC North Facts and History

The 2022-23 NFL season should be another one of the finest division races in the AFC North. Let’s take a look at the history and key facts of this division.

Which Teams play in the AFC North?

From a geographical viewpoint, no NFL division is closer than the AFC North as the teams reside in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The four teams currently in the division are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens.

History of the AFC North

The AFC North technically did not exist until realignment in 2002 when the NFL moved to 32 teams spread out across eight divisions. But the rivalries were already ongoing as this division was bred out of the AFC Central, which started in 1970 after the merger.

The original AFC Central included the Steelers, Browns, Bengals, and Houston Oilers. These teams battled for years, though it was clear with four Super Bowl wins that the Steelers were the class of the NFL in the 1970s.

But the 1980s brought a down period in Pittsburgh, which led to some exciting runs by the Browns and Oilers. However, both franchises continuously saw their seasons end in postseason heartbreak. The Browns lost three AFC Championship Games to the Broncos, including “The Drive” and “The Fumble.” The Oilers made the playoffs seven years in a row in 1987-83, but they never got past the second round and even blew a record 32-point lead in Buffalo in the 1992 AFC wild card round.

The 1990s brought significant changes to AFC Central. The Jacksonville Jaguars joined the division as an expansion team in 1995, and they became one of the most successful expansion teams in pro sports with multiple playoff appearances before they were moved to the new AFC South in 2002.

Speaking of moves, in 1995 the Browns were sold to Baltimore by owner Art Modell where they became the Baltimore Ravens, which started playing games in 1996. They replaced the Browns, who would not be brought back as a franchise until 1999. By that time the Oilers had moved to Tennessee where they became the Tennessee Titans.

While the Titans lost the Super Bowl in the 1999 season, the Ravens won their first championship in 2000, getting there in just five seasons while the Browns have yet to ever make it to the big game.

With the AFC Central bloated to six teams in 1999-01, the league chose to realign things in 2002 with the arrival of the Houston Texans. The Jaguars and Titans joined them in the AFC South, leaving behind a new AFC North with the Steelers, Browns, Bengals, and Ravens, leading to where we stand today.

Who Has Won the AFC North the Most?

Since the 2002 realignment, the AFC North has been a fairly competitive division outside of one team:

  • The Steelers have won the AFC North nine times since 2002, though they have never won it more than two seasons in a row (2007-08 and 2016-17).
  • The Ravens have won the division six times with a pair of repeat runs in the John Harbaugh era (2011-12 and 2018-19).
  • The Bengals have won the division five times, and usually with a gap of four or more seasons in between wins outside of the times they won in 2013 and 2015.
  • The Browns have never won the AFC North and they have not won a division title since the 1989 season.

Cleveland has finished third or fourth among AFC North teams every season except for 2002 and 2007 when they were second in the division.

Who Has the Most Super Bowl Success in the AFC North?

The AFC North has accounted for eight Super Bowl wins, but it is far from even distribution.

  • Browns: one of four NFL teams to never appear in the Super Bowl, joining the Lions, Jaguars, and Texans
  • Bengals: 0-3 in Super Bowl (last appearance: 2021)
  • Ravens: 2-0 in Super Bowl (last appearance: 2012)
  • Steelers: 6-2 in Super Bowl (last appearance: 2010)

Prior to the Super Bowl era, the Browns won four NFL championships in 1950, 1954, 1955, and 1964. The Bengals have lost their last two Super Bowls after leading with 90 seconds left to play.

The AFC North and Its Heated Rivalries

While you know from our AFC West predictions that the division is known for its quarterback play, the AFC North is known for physical football. The AFC North is home to some of the league’s best rivalries. Perhaps the short distance between cities has fueled these rivalries in the AFC North as many of the fans genuinely despise one another. This has sometimes spilled onto the field as well with coaches and players getting involved.

  • In 1989, Bengals coach Sam Wyche got on a microphone during a game to yell at the home crowd to stop throwing snowballs on the field. The famous quote ended up being “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!”
  • Before a 2004 Steelers-Browns game, Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter and Cleveland running back William Green were ejected for fighting during pre-game warmups.
  • In 2005, Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh infamously wiped his cleats with the Steelers’ famed Terrible Towel after a win in Pittsburgh. The Steelers eliminated the Bengals from the playoffs that year after coach Bill Cowher used that clip as motivation.
  • Before a 2005 Steelers-Browns game, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison body slammed a drunk Cleveland fan who was dancing on the field.
  • In a 2013 Steelers-Ravens game on Thanksgiving, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin infamously stepped into the path of Jacoby Jones during a long kick return. Tomlin was fined $100,000 for the incident.
  • In a 2019 Browns-Steelers game, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett swung a helmet at Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, leading to a brawl between the teams.

With the confidence (or cockiness depending on your viewpoint) shown by the young Bengals and the addition of Deshaun Watson to the division, these rivalries should only intensify in the 2022 season.