NFL Season Preview For AFC North, 2022-23

NFL Season Preview For AFC North, 2022-23
Wed 31st August 2022

We simply cannot wait for the new NFL season to start, and we are counting down the days until the very first kick off. If you are like us and love the NFL, then you definitely need to have a read on below, as we take a look at each and every team from the AFC North and analyze their chances for success in this brand new season.

Baltimore Ravens

The season started off promising for the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, as they posted wins in eight of their first 11 games despite losing four key players to season-ending injuries before the start of the regular season. 

But the Ravens finished the season with six consecutive losses, including five setbacks by a combined eight points, and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017. A rash of injuries that led to a whopping 19 players finishing the season on injured reserve proved too much to overcome for head coach John Harbaugh’s squad.

The good news is that it’s improbable that Baltimore will be decimated by injuries for a second consecutive year. The return of former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, who missed the final four games with an ankle injury, along with backfield mates J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards bodes well for the Ravens’ ground attack. 

Both running backs sat out the entire season a year ago with knee injuries but helped Baltimore notch the third-most rushing yards in NFL history in 2020 with 3,071. Although speedy wideout Marquise Brown was shipped to the Arizona Cardinals, Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews and former first-round pick Rashod Bateman will command the majority of targets when Jackson puts the ball in the air.

The defensive unit should also return to form this year after losing Marcus Peters, L.J. Fort, Marlon Humphrey, DeShon Elliott, and Derek Wolfe to injuries last season. The Ravens added former New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams during free agency before drafting Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton with the 14th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

While reaching the postseason in one of the league’s toughest divisions will not be a cakewalk, the Ravens have too much talent on both sides of the ball to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals exceeded expectations in 2021 and fell just shy of winning their first Super Bowl title in franchise history. However, the cupboard remains full and the Bengals seemed prime for another postseason run this upcoming season. Third-year quarterback Joe Burrow blossomed into an elite signal-caller last year with 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions over the final five games of the regular season. 

But the former LSU standout was sacked 70 times last season, including the playoffs, which prompted the team to significantly upgrade the offensive line with a trio of free agent acquisitions – center Ted Karras, guard Alex Cappa and tackle La’el Collins.

A slew of playmakers has transformed head coach Zac Taylor’s squad into an offensive juggernaut. The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, receiver Ja’Marr Chase, hauled in 81 passes for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns in a dominant rookie campaign. 

Wideout Tee Higgins caught 74 balls for six scores, while slot man Tyler Boyd scored five touchdowns on 67 receptions. Featured back Joe Mixon was selected to his first Pro Bowl last year after tallying more than 1,500 all-purpose yards and finding the end zone 16 times.

The Bengals defensive unit was stocked with key free agent signees and did not disappoint a year ago. Former New Orleans Saints end Trey Hendrickson tallied 17.5 sacks during the regular season and playoffs, while cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton fortified a secondary that consistently made big plays. 

The heart and soul of the defense is Pro Bowl safety Jessie Bates, and Cincinnati used their first two draft picks in this year’s draft on defensive backs Dax Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt. The Bengals have the look of a Super Bowl contender and should be in the hunt for the Vince Lombardi trophy if the revamped offensive line can help keep Burrow healthy.

Cleveland Browns

The 2021 season was a step backward for a Cleveland Browns squad that finished below .500 after posting an 11-5 record in 2020. The team outlook for the upcoming season improved dramatically once the Browns traded for the Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in March. However, the playoff hopes of the franchise suffered a massive blow once Watson was suspended for the first 11 games of the season by the NFL. 

Journeyman quarterback Jacoby Brissett will take over the reins of the offense and is a mediocre signal-caller at best. It is a good bet that Cleveland will lean on the running game and an above-average defense to survive in the rugged AFC North until Watson returns on Dec. 4 against the Houston Texans.

Nick Chubb headlines one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks. The All-Pro running back has averaged nearly 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns over the past three seasons despite missing seven games. The former Georgia Bulldog is joined in the backfield by Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson. 

Hunt won the league rushing title during his rookie campaign but missed nine games last year due to a calf injury. Johnson went undrafted in 2018 but exploded for 146 yards against the Denver Broncos a year ago while averaging more than five yards per rush on 100 carries. The Browns traded for former Dallas Cowboys wideout Amari Cooper and re-signed tight end David Njoku, but both pass catchers will have limited opportunities with Brissett under center. 

Defensive end Myles Garrett is one of the NFL’s best sack artists with a combined 51.5 sacks over the past four seasons. Although the former Texas A&M standout is a top playmaker, he is just one of several talented players on the Browns’ defensive unit. Edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney posted nine sacks last season, and cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II are both dynamic ball hawks. 

Second-year linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a budding star who is primed to have a breakout campaign this upcoming season. Cleveland will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs this season unless the running game and defense can carry the team until Watson returns in Week 12.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2021 season got off to a slow start for the Pittsburgh Steelers with three losses in their first four games. But head coach Mike Tomlin’s squad rallied to win four of their final six games to finish 9-7-1 and earn a playoff spot for the second consecutive season. With the retirement of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers playoff chances this upcoming season will be an uphill battle. 

A trio of signal-callers led by former second overall pick Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and rookie Kenny Pickett will battle for the starting job. Trubisky is the favorite to win the job but Pickett has enjoyed an impressive preseason after being selected in the first round of this year’s draft.

The 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris carried the ball an incredible 307 times last year behind a subpar offensive line. Pittsburgh inked center Mason Cole and guard James Daniels during free agency to help their workhorse running back, and added Georgia receiver George Pickens in the second round. He will join wideouts Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, along with tight end Pat Freiermuth, to form an impressive group of young pass catchers.

The once-proud Pittsburgh defense struggled mightily last season to stop the run. The 2021 Defensive Player of the Year and All-Pro tackle Cameron Heyward were the few bright spots on a unit that allowed 5.0 yards per carry from opposing running backs. Watt recorded a league-high 22.5 sacks while Heyward tallied 53 solo tackles and 10 sacks. 

Second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith posted six sacks and is a candidate for a breakout season. The Steelers added former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack in free agency and remain hopeful that the 10th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, linebacker Devin Bush, will finally blossom into an impact player. It will be a struggle to earn a postseason berth this season and finishing with a .500 record is not guaranteed.

When the 2022 NFL season does eventually kick off, make sure SportsTips is your go-to destination for NFL picks. We will provide NFL picks for each and every game of the season from our experts, so you can place your bets with more confidence!

Marvin is a self-confessed sports fanatic who is addicted to the NFL, MLB and CFB. He has a passion for Daily Fantasy Sports and absolutely loves gambling and making money on his favorite sports. He has been an avid Dallas Cowboys fan since the 1970s and has been writing about sports for more than three decades. Whether he is making prop bets or choosing which teams will cover spreads, he is thrilled to provide relevant information for all of our readers.