The Cleveland Browns won’t be the only competitive AFC North team
The Cleveland Brown’s last division title was when the AFC Central still existed. The Browns won the division in 1989 with a 9-6-1 record. Cleveland would go on to lose to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game that year. Since then, the NFL realigned to eight divisions in 2002 putting the Browns in the AFC North along with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Baltimore Ravens.
Since 2002 the Steelers have won eight division titles, the Ravens have won six, and the Bengals four. The Browns have yet to clinch an AFC North title and they have only finished better than third place twice since 2002. In fact, in 18 years of the AFC North’s existence, the Browns have finished in last place 12 times.
While the Browns have been uncompetitive most years since their return to the NFL in 1999, the division has done them no favors. All three teams have been extremely competitive at times, with the Steelers and Ravens both winning multiple Super Bowls in the last 20 years. This isn’t an excuse for the Browns, but it is difficult having six divisional games a year that are all extremely difficult to win. If only the Browns could play the Browns twice a year…
One thing is for sure, the rivalries inside the division are as fierce as ever and all four teams have tremendous fan bases. Cleveland has been in rebuild mode for 21 years, yet each offseason fans are convinced the team is now a Super Bowl contender. Year in and year out Browns’ fans are let down but always come back for more.
Will things be different in 2020? That is the million-dollar question right now in Cleveland. For the first time since the teams return the top brass of Paul DePodesta, Andrew Berry, and Kevin Stefanski are fully aligned. The crew has shown they favor the analytical model but are willing to spend on positions of need.
Let’s take a dive into each team of the AFC North and see who is ready to compete for a division title in 2020.