Skip to main content
Presented by

AFC North Makes History as the Best Division

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

The AFC North made history this season as the NFL's best division.

All four teams finished above .500, becoming the first division since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to have all four of its teams finish with a winning record. The Ravens (13-4), Browns (11-6) and Steelers (10-7) all made the playoffs, while the Bengals (9-8) finished above .500 despite losing starting quarterback Joe Burrow to a season-ending wrist injury in Week 11.

Dating back before the merger, it's the first division to accomplish that feat since 1935, when the West Division (Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Chicago Cardinals) did so, per Bleacher Report.

Baltimore has a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed. The Browns will open the playoffs visiting the Houston Texans on Saturday (4:30 p.m.), while the Steelers will visit the Buffalo Bills on Sunday (1 p.m.) in another Super Wild Card Weekend matchup. Here's a look at other news regarding the Ravens' division rivals:

Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt Will Reportedly Miss Playoff Opener

The Steelers (10-7) won three straight games to make the playoffs, but reportedly won't have star edge rusher T.J. Watt for their postseason opener against the Bills. The best-case scenario for Watt, who injured his knee in Saturday's 17-10 victory over the Ravens, is to return in two weeks wearing a brace, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Watt is a strong candidate to win Defensive Player of the Year for the second time, after leading the league in sacks (19.0). He is the first player ever to lead the league in sacks three times, and the impact he makes for the Steelers is hard to overstate. Since 2017 when Watt was drafted, Pittsburgh is 1-10 when he doesn't play.

Markus Golden and rookie Nick Herbig, who combined for seven sacks this season, are likely to share snaps replacing Watt. However, veteran defensive tackle Cam Heyward said the Steelers must accept the challenge of trying to win without Watt until he returns.

"We better be able to," Heyward said in Baltimore after Saturday’s victory. "That's a tall ask. It's not going to be one guy. We'll have to mix some things up, but as a pass rush crew and a D-line and an outside linebacker crew, we must step up. That goes to guys like Alex Highsmith, who I thought played well today. Nick Herbig and Markus Golden, these are the guys we relied on for depth all season, and they've done a good job. No one is going to go out there saying, 'Hey. I'm T.J. Watt,' but collectively, we've got to pick it up."

Cleveland Browns: Joe Flacco Hopes His Experience Will Lead to More Postseason Success

In 2012, Joe Flacco had a remarkable four-game playoff run, throwing 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions while leading the Ravens to their second Super Bowl title. With a 10-5 career postseason record, Flacco has built a legacy of playoff success, but he's looking for more when the Browns visit the Texans on Saturday.

Flacco said he has learned to make preparing for playoff games feel as normal as possible.

"Don't try to do too much, play within yourself, and the next thing you know it will feel like a regular game," Flacco said via the Browns' website. "I will say in the beginning, the atmosphere, you can kind of feel the importance of it. After the first couple of drives, the game settles in."

Flacco is entering the playoffs on a roll, winning his last four starts after signing with the Browns in November. He did not play during Cleveland's 41-14 loss to the Bengals in Week 18, as other key veterans such as Myles Garrett and Amari Cooper also rested with Cleveland locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC.

The 38-year-old Flacco is the oldest starting quarterback in the playoffs, and his team will face the Texans, led by the youngest quarterback in the playoffs in 22-year-old rookie C.J. Stroud. Flacco hopes his experience will help the Browns make a postseason run, and he's already savoring the opportunity.

"I don't know if you're necessarily aware of what you're doing in the moment, but to win it feels good," Flacco said. "Everybody's excited, you can see it in everybody's eyes. Honestly at this point in my career I could care less if I throw a touchdown pass or not. It's about winning the football game."

Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase Knows Bengals May Lose Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd

Ja'Marr Chase has been a 1,000-yard receiver in all three of his NFL seasons and had a career-high 100 catches in 2023. He's also been part of a premier trio of wide receivers in Cincinnati that includes Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, both of whom are pending free agents.

Chase will be eligible for a new contract this offseason and would like to get a deal done. However, Chase knows it will be difficult for the Bengals to strike deals with all three receivers and isn't happy that the trio could be separated.

"They know I want them," Chase said via Laurel Pfahler of the Dayton Daily News. "They know what I want, but at the end of the day, it's what they want. I don't want to hold nobody back from what they want. That's not me letting them be the greatest they can be at the end of the day. I support anything they do. Those are my brothers."

Asked if he would take less money to leave more room for Higgins to get a deal done, Chase said he wasn't sure because "it might come from somewhere else."

However, Chase said his main goal is to get healthy, after dealing with a shoulder injury much of the season. Chase said the injury would not require offseason surgery.

"It's been a hard season," Chase said. "I just want to show the guys I put my body on the line for those guys and I love football. At the end of the day, I just want to give my thanks to the guys that are in this locker room with me. They may be here with me next year or not."

Related Content