5 Bold Predictions For The AFC North In 2024

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
NFL Analysis Network

The AFC North is in for an interesting year in what seems to be as dense of a division year over year as any in the league. However, it won’t be without its surprises.

Here are five shots at predicting the unpredictable for the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens.

1. Mike Tomlin’s .500+ record comes to an end thanks to Russell Wilson

Mike Tomlin has earned at least as many wins as losses every year since he took over as Steelers head coach in 2007. However, the 17-year streak comes to an end in 2024.

Just when fans think it could be the easiest road to an over .500 record since Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, Russell Wilson ends Tomlin’s winning run.

The way it happens is Wilson maintains the team around .500 all season long and plays just well enough to avoid benching. However, in a win-and-in scenario, he loses the game to fall under .500 at 8-9.

2. Joe Burrow reestablishes Burrowhead

Patrick Mahomes will have spent nearly three years building toward winning the first three-peat in NFL history. However, the road to the Big Game runs through Cincinnati for the Chiefs as another bubble-level seed.

Joe Burrow, armed with much less to lose than Mahomes, wins a tight playoff battle for the Bengals. After the game, one player makes a Burrowhead joke (a reference to Arrowhead Stadium) and the rivalry turns even more competitive heading into 2025.

3. Deshaun Watson wins AFC North

After years of waiting, the Deshaun Watson trade finally returns a dividend.

The Browns win their first division title since 1989, per Pro Football Reference.

Suddenly, the quarterback’s 5-1 run with the team in 2023 looks like the first step toward a new era. Baker Mayfield, who has won the comparison in spades up to this point, gets dealt his first big blow.

4. Lamar Jackson takes a step back

Lamar Jackson has won two MVPs for a reason. However, he also has come up short in seasons as well. The 2024 campaign will serve as one year to forget for the Ravens quarterback.

Derrick Henry proves to be ineffective on his second team as age sets in for the running back. As a result, Jackson becomes forced into serving as the engine of the offense once again. This time, however, defenses are ready for him after another off-season of preparation.

5. T.J. Watt breaks sack record at 11th hour

T.J. Watt has quietly dominated in the last three years. Since the start of 2021, the Steelers edge rusher has logged at least 18 sacks twice. He has brushed up against Michael Strahan’s sack record before. However, this time, he smashes it, earning 24 sacks with three coming in the last game of the year.

Detractors note the 17 games Watt had to do it in compared to Strahan’s 16, but the NFL still touts the accomplishment as history anyway.

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