Baltimore Ravens or Cincinnati Bengals: Predicting the AFC North Division Winner

AFC North Ravens

Entering Week 15, the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals sit atop the AFC North with identical 9-4 records. With both teams should make the playoffs, it goes without saying that winning the division is preferable to making it as a wild card, as home-field advantage could be the difference between advancing and going home. So, with four games left to play, will the Bengals or Ravens take home the AFC North crown?

Will the Cincinnati Bengals or Baltimore Ravens Win the AFC North?

The Quarterbacks

Quarterback is the most important position in football, and the team with the better passer will naturally have a better chance of winning more games, all else being equal. After a relatively slow start to the season, Joe Burrow is back to playing like his 2021 self and is even putting himself in the MVP race. While he probably won’t win, he’s still one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and has the talent to win a championship for this team.

The Ravens, meanwhile, have a major quarterback problem on their hands. Lamar Jackson is battling injury and nobody knows when he’ll be able to suit up again. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley will start for at least one more week, and while he is a good backup, he’s nobody’s idea of a franchise quarterback.

Even when Jackson gets back on the field, Burrow is still the better quarterback. Jackson has cooled down considerably since his hot start to the season, whereas Burrow has never played better. This element clearly favors the Bengals down the stretch.

The Rest of the Team

The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the hottest teams in football right now, as every single appears to be clicking at the right time. Needless to say, the wide receiver trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd is one of the best in the league, while the offensive line has improved in recent weeks. The defense, while not elite, is certainly good enough to slow down most units and is better than the average NFL defense.

The Ravens, meanwhile, have some issues. While the defense has definitely held up their end of the bargain, the injuries on offense are not limited to the quarterback position. Mark Andrews is the only proven pass-catcher, and he’s battling some injuries of his own. Outside of him, the Ravens do not have a reliable weapon in the passing game, and the Ravens running backs aren’t that great either. J.K. Dobbins is back, but he doesn’t appear to have his old acceleration. On top of that, there is a reason Ravens fans wanted Greg Roman to go to Stanford. Once again, the Bengals have a clear edge here.

The Remaining Schedule

Of course, games aren’t played on paper, and the better team doesn’t always end up on top. The Ravens have a very favorable schedule, playing three beatable teams in the Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, and Pittsburgh Steelers before facing off against the Bengals in Week 18. 

While the Browns could be dangerous on paper, Watson is still knocking off the rust from his two-year football hiatus. Even with Huntley under center, the Ravens stand a decent shot here. The Falcons will be starting Desmond Ridder, and the Ravens already beat the Steelers with Huntley, so it stands to reason they can do it again with Jackson.

The Bengals, however, face a much harder final stretch. Over the next three weeks, the Bengals will face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, and Buffalo Bills before closing the season against the Ravens.

Cincinnati should be able to take care of business against the underperforming Buccaneers and mediocre Patriots, but the Bills game will be a challenge. If the Ravens go 3-0 and the Bengals go 2-1, then Week 18’s showdown will likely determine the AFC North champion.