The 2023 NFL regular season comes to an end on Sunday. The postseason opens next weekend with 14 teams vying for a Super Bowl championship after a season of major injuries, breakout stars and, as always, intrigue around the NFL.
For the AFC North, 2023 has been one for the ages. Throughout the year, it was obvious that it was the best division which will now end with at least two teams in the playoffs.
What we know already:
- The Baltimore Ravens will at least be tied for the best record in the NFL
- The Cleveland Browns will at least be tied for the second-best record in the AFC
- The Browns could be tied for the second-best record in all of the NFL
- The Pittsburgh Steelers join the Ravens and Browns with double-digit victories this year
- With a win against Cleveland, the Cincinnati Bengals will mean all four teams have winning records
- The Steelers have a chance, based on Sunday’s results, to make three AFC North teams in the postseason
With all but two games left to play in the season, the AFC North has 42 victories. Assuming no tie between the Browns and Bengals, the division will end with 43. Before the start of Week 18’s Sunday games, no other division has more than 33 victories.
With the final week being all division rivalry games, no other division will end with more than 35 wins in 2023.
The AFC North is eight games better than the next closest in the league.
Surprisingly, the 43 victories (assuming no ties) only ties the AFC North for the most victories since the divisional realignment:
NFL divisions were realigned in 2002, with divisions downsizing from either five or six teams to four. Since the realignment, the record for combined wins by a division is 43. That record was set last season by the 2022 NFC East, which sent three teams to the postseason and had none under .500.
Important to note that that division is doing all of this despite three of the four starting quarterbacks missing significant time due to injury. Joe Burrow led Cincinnati to the Super Bowl two years ago but a wrist injury knocked him out. Deshaun Watson had his best game for Cleveland days before going on injured reserve for the season. Kenny Pickett’s season was less successful but forced Pittsburgh to try multiple quarterbacks to replace him.
How the AFC North’s 2023 is remembered depends on the playoffs. Can the Ravens carry on their dominance and represent the conference in the Super Bowl? Will Joe Flacco’s run with the Browns continue to be the story of the league for a couple more weeks? If they make the playoffs, can the Steelers ride long-term backup Mason Rudolph and a solid culture to a win or two?
For now, the AFC North can lay claim to a historic regular season and, by far, being the best division in the NFL in 2023.
How surprised are you with the division’s success especially given the quarterback injuries?