John Harbaugh has already gone on the record about the quality of football in the AFC North.
"We may be in the best division in football," Harbaugh said after Week 2. "We're not surprised by that."
The numbers support Harbaugh, as the AFC North has been one of the NFL's best divisions against teams around the league. AFC North teams are a combined 5-1 against out-of-division foes through the first four games of the year, the best mark in the NFL.
The Ravens will have their work cut out for them if they are going to become division champs like they were in 2012.
Here's an AFC North update after the first quarter of the season:
The Bengals came into the season as the team to beat, and they have done nothing to relinquish that title. The defending division champs are one of two undefeated teams in the NFL this season, and they won their only game against a division foe when they beat the Ravens 23-16 the first week of the season. Quarterback Andy Dalton is off to a strong start and wide receiver A.J. Green has already established himself as one of the best targets in the game. Cincinnati also has a dominating defense – they have given up an NFL-best 11 points per game – and they blew out Atlanta and Tennessee by a combined score of 57-17. The Bengals don't play another division game until Week 8 –at home against the Ravens – and then five of their final 10 games are against AFC North rivals.
It's been an up and down start for the Steelers. They suffered a lopsided loss to the Ravens, but followed it up with a dominating victory over Carolina. They then dropped last week's game to Tampa Bay after surrendering a second-half lead. The Steelers have an explosive offense with plenty of playmakers around veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back LeVeon Bell are two of the best in the league at their respective positions. A problem for Pittsburgh, however, is they have an aging defense that hasn't looked anything like the dominant Steelers defenses of old. The Steelers have been so hot and cold through their first four games, and they need to play more consistent if they are going to return to the postseason for the first time in three years.
The Browns look like a much different team from last year's squad that finished the season 5-11. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has been impressive in his first three games, as he's protected the football and moved the offense. Harbaugh has praised Hoyer, saying that he's the "best quarterback they've had in a number of years." While the Browns have looked better, they have still been victimized by mistakes that have plagued them for the last several years. They lost to the Steelers and Ravens on last-second field goals, and have to learn how to win close games if they're going to complete with the top teams in the division. After last week's bye, the Browns now have a chance to make a run as their five games come against teams without a winning record.