For the first time since the 1970 NFL AFL merger, one NFL Division has every team in that division finish the season with an above .500 record. That Division is the 2023 AFC North Division. The last time this happened was in 1935. The 1935 NFL West Division had every team with a winning record. The Detroit Lions 7-3-2, Green Bay Packers 8-4, Chicago Bears 6-4-2, and the Chicago Cardinals 6-4-2 were all in that division that year. The Detroit Lions went on to be League Champions that season. In the modern NFL era, what the AFC North achieved this season was truly remarkable.
The Baltimore Ravens won the AFC North and the number one AFC playoff seed with a 13-4 record. The Cleveland Browns finished the season second in the division at 11-6 clinching the 5th AFC Wildcard playoff seed after starting five different quarterbacks. The Pittsburgh Steelers finished 3rd and went 10-6 and earned the final 7th Wildcard AFC playoff seed. They too lost their starting quarterback this season. Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals finished at 9-8 and last in the AFC North. Joe Burrow was not himself this season and it started with a training camp calf injury. He eventually went on Injured Reserve with a wrist injury. It is no surprise that the healthiest team in the 2023 AFC North won the division title.
Despite injuries for all AFC North teams, they not only had winning records they had a winning conference record going a combined 27-21 in the AFC. Against the NFC the AFC North had a combined 16-4 record in 2023. The NFC West Division Champion San Francisco 49ers and number one NFC playoff seed finished their season with a 12-5 record. Three of those five losses came from AFC North teams. They lost to the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Baltimore Ravens in 2023. And five of the eight Bengals losses were from divisional opponents. It is no surprise that three out of four AFC North Division teams made the 2023 playoffs.
This weekend is NFL Super Wildcard Weekend and the Cleveland Browns will be traveling to Houston Texas to play the Houston Texans. The Pittsburgh Steelers will go to Buffalo New York to play the Buffalo Bills. Baltimore with the top AFC playoff seed has earned the bye week. They will play the team that advances with the lowest seeding the following weekend. It would be no surprise if an AFC North team represented the AFC at the Super Bowl in Las Vegas next month. I agree with that. Also, I ask why can’t that team be the Cleveland Browns? And why not this year? With the league’s top-rated defense and a red-hot quarterback. The Browns don’t have to ask anything, they just must prove everything and prove every NFL “expert “ wrong with their predictions at the beginning of the 2023 season.