In 2020, three of the four AFC North teams made it to the NFL postseason.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns in contention, only the Cincinnati Bengals were left behind.
The Bengals have been playing outstanding football in 2021.
They were wrong.
The Bengals marched into Baltimore in Week 7 and beat a red hot Ravens team in every aspect of the game.
This means the 2021 AFC North is even more competitive given the current standings through Week 7.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 24, 2021
The Ravens have been the media darlings of the 2021 NFL season.
Lamar Jackson has been on a MVP pace with his running and passing yards.
WHAT A CATCH.
Lamar to Hollywood Brown for a 39-yard TD! #RavensFlock
— NFL (@NFL) October 24, 2021
Even in a losing effort against the Bengals, Jackson made huge plays to try and keep his team in the game.
The rest of the AFC North, and the NFL, should take note.
Burrow and Chase terrorized the Ravens today to take control of the division 🐯 @brgridiron
Are the Bengals AFC contenders? pic.twitter.com/UZTPfDlLDV
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 24, 2021
In his second year and coming off a season-ending injury in 2020, Burrow has been fantastic.
Through seven games, he has thrown 17 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions.
His favorite target is his former LSU teammate and rookie Chase who has 35 catches for 754 yards and six touchdowns.
Chase has given Burrow the deep threat he was missing last season.
Bengals, 5-2, with wins over Steelers & Ravens. Wow. Are they the Browns of 2020?
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) October 24, 2021
The Browns received a lot of preseason press given the revamped roster aiming to improve the defensive side of the ball under DC Joe Woods.
— Girl In CLE 🥃 (@girlincle) October 24, 2021
What has since happened is the tried-and-true offense that carried the Browns to their 11-5 success in 2020 has been ravaged with injuries.
The offensive line is also banged up.
The Steelers, the only team in the AFC North to have a bye week already (in Week 7), are 3-3.
It has not been easy for them, but the team has steadily hummed along and have been able to play decent football.
Are they the same team that sprinted out to an 11-0 record in 2020?
They definitely are not, but they do not have to be either.
However, the trademark tough Steelers defense is still a fixture led by T.J. Watt.
— SteelerNation (@SteeIerNation) October 20, 2021
The Steelers are in the mix and travel to Cleveland for a Week 8 game on October 31.
The Browns beat the Steelers in back-to-back weeks last season, Week 17 to end the regular season, and in the opening round of the playoffs in a Wild Card game so the Steelers will be looking to avenge those losses on Halloween.
The competitive nature of this division makes for great football.
In Week 7, the Bengals and Ravens opened up the head-to-head games with the Browns and Steelers meeting each other in Week 8.
This is when we will get a better idea of which AFC North team is the best in the division.
Until then, it is anyone’s guess.