Which team has the indoor track to win the division at the halfway point?
Highlights of the article:
- AFC North is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL
- The Baltimore Ravens currently occupy the top spot
- The Bengals, Browns and Steelers each have a path to winning the division title in 2021
AFC North could very well be the best division in football right now. The Baltimore Ravens are in first place, but the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers are right on their heels. All four teams have a legitimate chance of winning the division title. But which team has the easiest schedule in the second half of the season? Let’s find out.
Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
The Baltimore Ravens are in first place, but not by much. They are 6-2 in the first eight games despite losing several key elements of their roster along the way.
Baltimore’s two losses were to the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals. The second half will not be fun for John Harbaugh’s team.
The next two games are potential trap games against the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears. If the Ravens do business, they’ll be 8-2 ahead of a three-game AFC North streak. Baltimore will face the Browns twice in three weeks.
The Ravens’ second-half schedule also includes clashes with the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams and another game against the Steelers and Bengals.
Lamar Jackson plays like an MVP. However, the Ravens are in a war of attrition, so we’ll see how long they can last.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the surprise teams for the 2021 season. Joe Burrow’s return from a horrific injury and the emergence of rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase have done wonders for this team.
This Bengals team has a lot more fights than we’re used to seeing. They are no longer jumpers. However, after an impressive 5-2 start, Cincinnati lost two straight games.
Zac Taylor’s side have a tough but winnable second half schedule. The Bengals are on their well-deserved goodbye in Week 10. Then they will return with a road game against the Raiders.
The Bengals will host two West Coast teams from the LA Chargers and San Francisco 49ers to town in consecutive weeks. They will also meet the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cincinnati will play Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland again before the end of the year.
The Bengals have looked lucky over the past two weeks so it will be interesting to see if they can turn the tide.
Cleveland Browns (5-4)
The Cleveland Browns have been on a roller coaster ride through the first half of the 2021 season. They’ve lost a few close games but also have some convincing wins to their name.
After parting ways with Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns lit up the Bengals in Week 9 with a resounding 41-16 win. The star-studded defense played their best game of the season and Baker Mayfield looked more confident.
We’ll see if Cleveland turned a new leaf in the second half. Kevin Stefanski’s unit faces the Ravens twice and the Steelers and Bengals once each.
As for non-divisional games, the Browns will face the Packers, Raiders, New England Patriots and the lowly Detroit Lions. The latter should be a guaranteed cut in the win column for Cleveland.
The Browns are talented, but will they measure up?
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
It looked like it would be a long season for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the start. They knocked out the Buffalo Bills in Game 1 of the season, but lost three straight games soon after.
Ben Roethlisberger has shown clear signs of decline, and the offensive line is still fragile. However, the defense has helped keep Pittsburgh in games lately.
Mike Tomlin rallied the troops and the Steelers have won four in a row. The second half will prove if they can really take on the big dogs of the AFC.
Pittsburgh also has the luxury of playing Lions, but it becomes treacherous after that. The Steelers face the Ravens twice. They have one more against Cincinnati and Cleveland.
The Steelers also face the Chargers, Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans. If they do, they will have earned their respect.
AFC North Verdict
AFC North is a crapshoot at this point. The Ravens have that slim lead, but there’s no margin for error for either team. None of these teams will be able to win a division title. Most non-divisional games should be competitive.
Ultimately, divisional clashes in the second half will likely decide AFC North. May these teams compete for supremacy, and may the best team win.
All statistics are courtesy of Professional football benchmark
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