1. Cleveland Browns
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way right now.
By all accounts, the Cleveland Browns are the rising power in the AFC North — possibly the AFC, period. With their surprisingly dominant wild-card victory over Pittsburgh, they sent notice to the entire league that they were no longer a pushover. By contrast, while the Baltimore Ravens reached the playoffs, they hit a couple of rough patches along the way and weren’t the unstoppable force they were the previous year. In contrast to the Ravens and Steelers (see below), the Browns look like the only AFC North team on an upward trajectory.
Baltimore did sweep both of their regular-season meetings against Cleveland in 2020, with the second win coming in one of the most thrilling games of the entire season. In their Monday night meeting at FirstEnergy Stadium in December, Justin Tucker kicked a game-winning field goal with two seconds left to give the Ravens a 47-42 victory (the Ravens notched a safety on the final play for good measure).
With that precedent, and with the stakes as high as they are, it’s inevitable that at least one of the Ravens-Browns games in 2021 will reach a national audience.