Only makes sense the best division in NFL is featured on in-season 'Hard Knocks'

The Cleveland Browns and the rest of the AFC North will be featured on the in-season edition of Hard Knocks
Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns / Todd Olszewski/GettyImages

News broke earlier this week that the NFL will be doing an entire division for the in-season edition of their documentary series "Hard Knocks" and the Cleveland Browns will be part of the action. They chose to feature the entire AFC North starting on December 3rd. The program will have weekly episodes and continue into the playoffs.

Stating the AFC North is the best division in football isn't just an opinion either, it's a fact. Since 2020 only three divisions have had three of their teams reach the postseason- The AFC North, the NFC East, and the NFC West, the north is the only division to repeat that feat twice in that span.

Last year the North was also the only division in football where every team had a winning record. Per Yahoo Sports that's the first time that has happened in the NFL during the Super Bowl era, it was last achieved in the NFL West in 1935.

Next season the division should be even tighter. Starting with last year's divisional champ, the Baltimore Ravens only got better. The offense that boasted the sixth most total yards and most rushing yards last season signed two-time rushing champ Derrick Henry to bolster their running back room.

The defense retained key players such as Justin Madubuike, Malik Harrison, Kyle Van Noy, and Odafe Oweh. Also don't forget they still have the league's most electric quarterback Lamar Jackson fresh off his second MVP season. This was a team that was one touchdown short of the Super Bowl, so it's hard not counting them as the divisional favorite going into 2024

On the opposite side, we have last year's fourth place team the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite losing their franchise quarterback 10 games into the season, they still finished with an admirable 9-8 record. While they didn't do anything flashy in the offseason, they still made some important moves.

They brought back starting center Ted Karras and Wide Receiver Tee Higgins on one-year deals. The Bengals also brought in offensive tackle Trent Brown to solidify the offensive line and tight end Mike Gesicki to give Joe Burrow another target. In the two seasons of Burrows's career where he was fully healthy, he carried his team to back-to-back AFC Championship games. Even after a fourth-place finish, Cincinnati is very much in contention to retake the division title.

Then there's the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that has gone 17 seasons straight without a losing record under head coach Mike Tomlin. They were able to squeak into the final AFC wildcard spot despite being a bottom-10 passing offense. The team finishing the season 25th in passing yards and 31st in passing TDs convinced them to make a change in the quarterback room.

Pittsburgh ended up bringing in veteran QBs Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. Both are on cheap contracts and while not the biggest upgrades, certainly put the offense in a better position than they were with 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett.

They also brought Arthur Smith as the offensive coordinator and while Smith didn't have much success as a head coach, he still had a top-10 rushing offense four out of the five years he has called plays in the NFL. Pittsburgh still has a stout defense as well coming off a season where they were sixth in least points allowed and eighth in most turnovers forced

Lastly, there's the Cleveland Browns, America's Cinderella story from last season. Despite the five different starting QBs, losing their best offensive player Nick Chubb for the year in week two, and having an injury list longer than the field they play on, the team still managed to go 11-6 and secure a playoff spot.

The front office in Cleveland wasn't content with just waiting for the roster to reload coming back from injury, they added quality depth pieces to round out the roster. On the offensive side of the ball, they traded for young star wide receiver Jerry Juedy and signed D"Onta Foreman. They also did a great job keeping their number one defense from last together resigning defensive tackles Shelby Harris and Maurice Hurst.

Like Pittsburgh, they also upgraded their coaching staff hiring Ken Dorsey as the new offensive coordinator and former 2021 NFL Coach of the Year Mike Vrabel as a consultant. On top of that Cleveland also added five new position coaches.

In the end, the NFL knew what they were doing when they chose the AFC North. They picked the most competitive division and knew at the very least all four teams would be contending for a playoff spot come December. Once Hard Knocks airs on December 3rd, there will be five AFC North Matchups to end the season, not counting if two of those teams end up meeting in the playoffs. Football fans should be excited about this, as it will be the most compelling season of hard knocks to date.

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