The AFC North has become to be the most difficult division so far this season. A division that was expected to be dominated by the Ravens, has not been the case this season with the surprising performances by both the Browns and the Steelers.
The emergence of Mayfield and the fighting Browns
One of the top shocks this year has been the success from the Browns. The Browns were ranked 20th in the ESPN preseason power rankings. With five weeks completed in the season, the Browns now ranked 10th in the power rankings. The Browns are currently on a four-game winning streak after losing the first game of the season 38-6 against the Ravens.
Mayfield has really transformed this Browns team, a team that three seasons ago finished the year 0-16. Mayfield so far this season, has totaled a 61.2 percent completion rate, 976 passing yards, and nine touchdown passes. This is Mayfield’s best start to a season so far, as he has successfully had consistent performances in four straight games.
Mayfield has felt the pressure of leading an NFL team in the past few seasons. To deal with the stress and anxiety of being a NFL player, he takes CBD capsules that help him relax at night. Mayfield speaks about how taking CBD has changed his attitude and performance this season with the Browns and why he is excited to be a leader of the team.
“It’s a blessing to have the responsibility to lead a team as a quarterback and the face of a franchise, so I take pride in that,” said Mayfield to InsideHook. “But how can I consistently be that person for this team? Being less stressed out and extremely focused, those are things I have to be day in and day out. I have to be that same person for these people every day, and these products are helping me do that.”
The Browns can also thank the running back duo of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb for the offensive success on the Browns this season. Hunt spent two seasons with the Chiefs prior to the Browns, however he was released in the middle of last season due to a sexual assault case. He was then picked up by the Browns in the offseason.
Hunt has been able to turn his career around, totaling 347 rushing yards, 11 receptions, three rushing touchdowns and three touchdown catches so far this season. Chubb has also had a great season so far, totaling 335 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.
The Browns’ next test will be against AFC North rival Steelers. The Browns will look to bounce back from the embarrassing AFC North game against the Ravens during Week 1 of the season.
The Steaming Hot Undefeated Steelers
The Steelers are just one of the four undefeated teams left in the league. The Steelers were only ranked 13th in the preseason power rankings. After Week 5, they are now ranked sixth in the power rankings.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has had a great start to the season, but it was the rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool who was Big Ben’s number one receiver during last Sunday’s game against the Eagles. Claypool had 110 yards, seven receptions, three touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown on Sunday.
Big Ben has been extremely proud the type of player Smith-Schuster has grown to be. Though he did not perform well on Sunday, Juju had a huge smile on his face in the locker while celebrating the win with his teammates. That caught the eye of Roethlisberger and was extremely impressed by Juju’s attitude.
“I looked over at JuJu to kind of see what his reaction would be, because he’s our No. 1 receiver. I looked over at him and he had the biggest on his face. He had the biggest . He was having fun with other guys” said Roethlisberger about Smith-Schuster to ESPN. “I just can’t say enough about him and what that meant to me, what it meant to other guys and how proud we are of him that he truly was happy for Chase. He was happy we won the game. Did he have huge stats, JuJu? No, but we won the game and that’s all that matters”
The defense for the Steelers has also been impressive so far this season. The Steelers in five games have only allowed 87 points, second in the league behind the Ravens. The heart of the defense starts with center back Mike Hilton. Hilton this season has 29 tackles and three sacks. Linebacker Devin Bush and safety Terrell Edmunds are also having good seasons as well with 21 tackles each.
The next four games will be tough for the Steelers, with games against the AFC North rival Cleveland Browns, the undefeated Tennessee Titans, another AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens and the struggling Dallas Cowboys.
The Challenging to the AFC North Title for the Ravens
All preseason polls predicted that the Ravens would run away with the AFC North. However, with the success from both the Browns and the Steelers it has made it challenging for the Ravens to stay on top. Right now, the Ravens are tied for second in the AFC north, with the Steelers on top with a 5-0 record.
If the playoffs would start tomorrow, the Ravens will be the fifth seed with the first wildcard spot. With already the best defense in the league, what else can the Ravens do to get the top seed in the AFC?
Lamar Jackson so far this season is slightly behind the pace he was at last season. Though it is highly impossible to repeat the success he had last season, Jackson is still having a decent start to the season with a 63.7 completion rate, 949 passing yards, nine touchdown throws and one rushing touchdown. The Ravens need to improve on the passing game for Lamar, with his rushing yards slightly less than last year.
Jackson is not concern with the lack of the passing game or the lack of rushing yards he has, as he knows his guys will get work done in the offense.
“We have guys running the ball very good for us and we’re winning so it really doesn’t matter” Lamar says according to CBS . “We’re 4-1, so it’s a plus for us right now. As the season goes on, we’ll see if we need to [have me to run the ball more], will adjust. Right now, we’re doing perfectly fine without me running so much, so we’re doing good.”
Tight end Mark Andrews is leading the offensive in touchdown catches with 5, while running backs Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards have two rushing touchdowns each.
The Ravens are put in a difficult spot and will have to work twice as much to get the top seed for in the AFC. Sharing a division with the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Kansas City Chiefs is not easy, and definitely not as easy as last season.
Who will come out on top in the AFC North?
With only five games played in the NFL so far, it is too early to predict. This is a division that includes the top two best defenses in the NFL, and some of the best talented players in the league.
The Steelers have a difficult schedule coming up that can change things in the AFC North. Mayfield still has a challenging road ahead of him as well, however the Browns have proved that they are a solid squad. As for the Ravens, if they can increase their passing game and get Jackson to run more, the Ravens can run through the schedule and come out on top by the end of the season, as long as their defense can maintain its form.