2023 Offseason Questions: Can AFC North Be Next After NFC East To Send 3 Teams To Divisional Round?

The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead, they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.

On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.

Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answering, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.

Question: Can the AFC North send three teams to the divisional round in the near future?

For just the third time in NFL history, a single division will have three teams competing in the divisional round of the postseason in 2022. With the Dallas Cowboys’ defeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they will join the New York Giants and the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles next week, all representing the NFC East.

It hasn’t been possible for most of NFL history for this to even occur, and even when it has been possible, it’s often been rather difficult. Until the addition of the seventh seed recently as a third wildcard, there was only one period between 1990 and the 2002 divisional realignments when it had a better chance of happening. It happened twice during that time, most recently in 1997.

That was with the old NFC Central, which lost the Buccaneers and was renamed the NFC North. The Packers, Vikings, Buccaneers, and Lions all reached the postseason that year. All but the Lions made it to the divisional round. The NFC East in 1992 also sent three teams to the divisional round.

It has otherwise never happened, but already in just the third season with a seventh seed, it’s happened again. Is this a sign that we can expect to see it happen more often? And can the AFC North be the next division to do it?

They nearly sent three teams to the playoffs this year, including the Steelers, if not for a Dolphins win in week 18. But at least on paper, all four teams in the AFC North should be competitive at the least in 2023, with an improved situation at quarterback overall.

Could we see the Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens all in the divisional round next year, for example? It’s often the case that divisional rivals end up getting pitted against one another in the wildcard round, so it helps a lot of the division winners secure the top seed.

Even if it’s not incredibly likely for this to happen, at the least, is the AFC North the division most likely to be able to send three teams to the divisional round next year, or in the near future? What do you think?

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