Seven weeks into the season and the AFC North division looks to be setting up once again to be a two team race between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.
While the Cincinnati Bengals are still mathematically alive, and will be for some time, their 1-3 record in the division severely hampers their chances of winning the North crown. It will be a while before they get a chance to improve that divisional record in addition as they close the season with their remaining divisional games against the Steelers and the Ravens.
The Ravens are a team that certainly is looking forward to their bye this week after getting blown out by the Houston Texans this past Sunday. Their defense has been ravaged by injuries and their best player on the field against the Texans was Terrell Suggs, who made his season debut after tearing is Achilles during the offseason.
Despite the Ravens offense being ineffective against the Texans, they remain a unit capable of putting points on the board. When they emerge from their bye week they will face the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders prior to facing the Steelers for the first of two meetings. You have to like their chances of being 7-2 entering that game.
The Steelers have two tough games ahead of them before even thinking about the Ravens as they host the Washington Redskins and then travel to New York to face the New York Giants prior to hosting the hapless Kansas City Chiefs in week 10. Should the black and gold drop any of these three games prior to facing the Ravens, their hopes of winning the division diminishes greatly. Even more so should they also drop the first game to the Ravens.
The saving grace right now for several teams in the AFC is that the conference is in a state mediocrity. Outside of the Texans, who will easily win the South division, it is anyone\'s guess as to who wins the other three divisions. One would think that the New England Patriots should emerge from the East as long as Tom Brady can get out of bed and the same holds true for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the West.
Assuming that is the way the divisions outside of the North finish, the Steelers should have a pretty good shot at a playoff spot should they not win the North.
Will the Bengals be in that Wild Card hunt? After their bye this week they host the Broncos and the Giants. Should they lose both of those games they will have 6 losses on the season with 5 being in conference. At that time they would be way outside of the playoff bubble looking in.