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Power Ranking AFC North after Deshaun Watson Suspension

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Steelers Browns AFC North

Deshaun Watson will be suspended for six games in the 2022 NFL season, it was announced yesterday. With that in mind, it is much clearer how this season can go for the Cleveland Browns and AFC North teams.

So, in this week’s power rankings, it was easy to aim a little higher for some AFC North standings predictions. Not all teams are set just yet, but this is just about what you will see on the field on Week 1 through Week 17 and beyond. It is always a fun exercise to try and dig through the minutiae of all the teams.

Now, with so much change inside the division and a litany of star quarterbacks, it is going to be a tough division to crack year in and year out. So, who will win the AFC North this season?

Alan Saunders, Nick Farabaugh, and Cale Berger broke down their predicted rankings. Our power rankings were compiled with each first-place vote getting 10 points and so on and so forth. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

AFC North Power Rankings Steelers Bengals Browns Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals 

The Bengals went to the Super Bowl last season, and it doesn’t look like a fluke. Cincinnati has most of its starting cast back from 2021, including quarterback Joe Burrow, receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd and running back Joe Mixon, and Cincinnati has gone out of its way to address concerns about its offensive line for 2022. The Bengals are for real, and an easy preseason favorite to win the division. — Saunders

Baltimore Ravens 

No team was plagued by injuries more than the Ravens in 2021. Not only were their running back room and secondary decimated, but quarterback Lamar Jackson also missed fives games and struggled to carry the offense entirely on his shoulders.

Now Baltimore is back to full health and appears primed to reassert itself in the AFC North. Not only are running back J.K. Dobbins, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley back in the fold, but they also added safeties Kyle Hamlilton and Marcus Williams to bolster their secondary.

Add a motivated Jackson still seeking an extension to the mix, and the Ravens look primed to return healthy and hungry for 2022. — Berger

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are a team that has many question marks, including at the most important position on the field, quarterback. That and the offensive line struggles have to bring pause to anyone that expects the Steelers to do good things.

However, betting against Mike Tomlin is a fool’s errand. Tomlin consistently does more with less and the skill position talent along with what should be a reinvigorated defense can give the Steelers new life. Expect them to overachieve relative to expectation and stay out of the division’s basement due to good fundamentals and a knack for creating the big play. — Farabaugh

Cleveland Browns

The Browns should once again have a strong running game, with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt following a dominant offensive line. The team hoped to upgrade its passing offense for 2022 in adding Amari Cooper and Watson, but will now be without Watson for the first six games of the season, including against potential AFC playoff teams like the Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots. Without Watson’s playmaking ability, the receivers won’t scare many, even with Cooper, and teams will be able to sit on the run as they have in the past. There’s also no telling how good Watson will be in his mid-season return, nearly two years removed from competitive football. — Saunders

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