Ah, the AFC North. This division of legendary franchises and ever-strong competitors... Well, it turns out the division is getting better by the year, and this season might see the four teams pertaining to it make history.
In a remarkable turn of events, at least throughout the first half of the regular season, a rare development is unfolding as all four franchises—your superheroes from Baltimore, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns—are currently positioned to clinch playoff berths. Read that again.
The Ravens lead the charge with one of only 7–2 records across the NFL, sitting atop the AFC North and well above the second-place tied-trifecta of other teams in the division, all tied at 5-3 right now. All of those three franchises, however, are currently occupying the three wild card spots in the AFC.
This potential sweep of the playoffs field by an entire division is unprecedented in recent NFL history. That comes with an asterisk, yes, but still.
The last time a division sent four teams to the playoffs was in the 1990s, but back then NFL divisions featured five teams instead of the current four-team organization. Now, the AFC North stands on the brink of making history as the full division would clinch postseason places if the season ended today--or if they can find a way to keep winning games.
In a hypothetical postseason starting in mid-November (right now, that is), the Ravens would host the Bengals, the Steelers would face off against the Dolphins, and the Browns would take on the Jaguars.
It's stupid, ridiculous, nonsensical, and most probably different from the real outcome we'll experience in January, but let us dream for a second!
Actually, nah, ditch that. In reality, the road to the postseason for all four teams will be hella hard to navigate without at least one of the three non-Ravens franchises falling off the playoffs race.
The Bengals and Ravens face the toughest and second-toughest remaining strength of schedule in the entire NFL, respectively, by combined opponent winning records. Meanwhile, the Browns are set to face the 11th-toughest schedule, while the Steelers have a relatively softer path with them facing the 22nd-hardest schedule.
John Harbaugh, the Ravens' head coach, addressed the media in his customary Monday press conference, shedding light on the competition within the AFC North.
"It's really awesome that we have such a great division, and I'd be really disappointed if we didn't," Harbaugh said. "It would be just terrible if everybody was not a good team in our division," he joked.
The head coach added that Baltimore "respects these teams," including labeling the AFC North a "great division," going the distance to proclaim it as "the best division," simply stating "There's no doubt about it."