AFC North predictions: Can Bengals, Ravens threaten Chiefs in playoffs?

Analyzing the divisions within the AFC is much more relevant for Kansas City Chiefs fans than guessing what will happen in the NFC.

The AFC North, in particular, could go multiple ways, and all of the division’s teams have a route to winning a coveted playoff spot.

Top to bottom it is among the best groups in the NFL. Each team can compete for a Lombardi Trophy in 2023, and all are capable of winning their division.

Check out our predictions for the AFC North below, and see which teams could threaten the Chiefs in a potential playoff matchup:

1. Cincinnati Bengals: 12-5

2. Pittsburgh Steelers: 10-7

3. Baltimore Ravens: 9-8

4. Cleveland Browns: 7-10

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

A team has to finish last in this division, and as disappointing as it would be for Browns fans, their team makes the most sense in this spot.

Deshaun Watson can easily make this prediction look foolish, but it is not entirely clear that he will return to form to become the player he was in Houston. Sitting out for nearly two years of football can lead to a major drop in production.

Last year there were six games where the $230 million quarterback completed only 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,102 yards, seven touchdowns, and five interceptions. Watson will be entering 2023 after a full offseason that helped him gain familiarity and understanding of Kevin Stefanski’s scheme.

Something that has been puzzling is the lack of preseason reps that Watson and the first-team offense have taken. After playing only one series in the preseason opener, Stefanski gave Watson zero snaps in the second preseason game.

Nonetheless, Cleveland does possess a very compelling roster with Amari Cooper, Nick Chubb, Elijah Moore, and David Njoku surrounding Watson. The defense should be also much improved from last season with Myles Garrett leading the way.

The talent on this team is unquestioned, but it all comes down to how well Watson can execute the offense while providing off-schedule plays from time to time. If the 27-year-old quarterback can be 85-90 percent the player he was for the Texans, this Browns team can be very competitive in 2023.

It is important to note that Cleveland’s first three of four games feature AFC North opponents. A tough early schedule for a team that may be still trying to figure things out. Cleveland does not catch a break after its week five bye – the Browns host the 49ers in week six. It could be a disastrous start for Cleveland.

There are two obvious candidates who can prevent the Chiefs from reaching Super Bowl

Story originally appeared on Chiefs Wire