AFC North quarterbacks Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and Kenny Pickett.

If you like intrigue, you’re going to love this year’s AFC North.

It might be the only division where you can make a legitimate argument for anyone to win. According to the odds courtesy of, the AFC North is the only division where all four teams have win totals of at least 9. Sure, the Cincinnati Bengals are the two-time defending division champions and are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the highest overall win total at 11.5. They’re understandably the favorite, assuming Joe Burrow’s calf injury isn’t a problem.

But would you be shocked if the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, or even, the Pittsburgh Steelers emerged victorious? It’s not crazy. Four different analysts at Pro Football Focus (PFF) picked four different AFC North winners. That’s a reflection of the overall depth of talent. Last season, the AFC North came close to having three teams in the playoffs. The team that finished last, the Browns (7-10), might have fared better if not for Deshaun Watson’s 11-game suspension.

This season, every team should be close to full strength. If quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, Kenny Pickett, Burrow, and Watson all play at least 15 games, we might be in store for a photo-finish down the stretch.

The Bengals’ firepower puts them in the driver’s seat with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. No team has a better trio of wide receivers, and tailback Joe Mixon keeps the chains moving. They’ve also addressed their offensive line with the signing of left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. But they face the toughest schedule in the division, and the defense could be weakened by the free-agency losses of starting safeties Jesse Bates and Vonn Bell. Last year, they rallied from a 4-4 record, to win their final eight regular-season games. This season, they can’t afford another start.

The Ravens’ confidence makes them the biggest threat. They could have/should have won the division if not for blowing three double-digit leads in the fourth quarter, including a 21-point meltdown against the Miami Dolphins. A healthy and well-paid Lamar Jackson, who missed five games due to injury, will make a difference. So will having a revamped receiver corps that added Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, and Nelson Agholor, and a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken. Baltimore also has the easiest schedule in the division.

The Browns’ potential is reason for optimism. PFF rates Cleveland’s offensive line as second-best in the league behind the Philadelphia Eagles. Taking advantage of that front five will be bruiser Nick Chubb, who might be the most efficient running back in the league. The rest of the skill position players are solid, especially if New York Jets cast-off Elijah Moore proves to be an effective complement to Amari Cooper. Defensively, the pass rush looks good with Myles Garrett and off-season acquisition Za’Darius Smith. What we don’t know: Will Watson ever regain his previous form?

The Steelers’ resilience should scare everybody. This was not a good team last year. Despite having the ninth-worst scoring margin, Pittsburgh (9-8) rallied for its 16th straight season without a losing record. Credit to Mike Tomlin, who held his squad together with duct tape. The Steelers might have the most valuable defensive player in the league in T. J. Watt. They allowed the fewest total yards per game (272.9) in the NFL from Weeks 10-18 after Watt came back from a torn pectoral. Offensively, assuming youngsters Pickett and receiver George Pickens improve, watch out.

There you have it. Four teams. Four contenders. Brace yourself for a great battle in the AFC North.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.