The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The AFC North is wide open.
Explanation: With the AFC North teams feasting on one another this year, but all without a losing record, this is the most competitive the division has been in a while, and perhaps the most competitive in the entire league.
While the Baltimore Ravens stand on top of the division right now, I think it’s reasonable to suggest that they have had some good fortune break their way this year en route to a 5-2 record going into their bye week. They could just as easily be 3-4 if one or two things went differently.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals blow out the Ravens and the Steelers, but lose to the Jets? And the Bears, for that matter? While they have taken a sizeable step forward this season, that was merely a step out of the basement. They’re on the ground floor, now.
As for the Browns, who are now 4-4, consider who they’ve lost to, including the Cardinals and the Chiefs. The Chargers are one of the better teams in the AFC as well, and of course, the last loss came to Pittsburgh.
The Browns are going to quickly fall out of the running, the way things are heading for them, so that alone could suffice to disqualify this from being ‘wide open’, but rather a three-team race. And let’s take our Yinzer spectacles off for a moment. Are they really going to win the division this year?
They still have to play the Ravens twice, and the Bengals again, on the road. They lost to the Bengals with a backup quarterback last year. And they still have the Chargers and Chiefs, as well. They’re still 5-8 in their last 13 games played going back to last season, and not much has changed—in fact, in many ways, they’re worse. By the final stretch of the year, this is going to be a race between the Ravens and Bengals.