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Don't Crown the Browns Just Yet

Baltimore safety Tony Jefferson defends Ravens

March 21, 2019 - 9:51 am

By Austin Medina  

Division titles are not won in March.

The AFC North has seemingly undergone an overnight makeover.

The Steelers lost Le'Veon Bell, a top-three running back as well as Antonio Brown, the best wide receiver in the game. Although they have suitable replacements, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster respectively, they should find struggles in filling two large voids. 

The Bengals are rightfully undergoing a culture change, after the depature of head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive leader Vontaze Burfict, who just signed with Oakland. Though the two losses may be a blessing in disguise, Cincinnati has plenty of reason to be at the bottom of the North for another season. 

On the other hand, the Browns have made great strides since being the NFL's laughing stock after a winless 2017 campaign. Led by Baker Mayfield, the Browns seemingly have a franchise quarterback for the next decade and have added intense talent to surround him. After already having wide receiver Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku, the Browns made a splashy move to acquire Odell Beckham Jr. 

Beckham Jr. is a top-three wide receiver in the league and Cleveland matched him up with an aerial-attacking quarterback in Mayfield. Beckham Jr. did wonders with an over-the-hill Eli Manning, just imagine what he can accomplish with Mayfield. 

Many around the league, including former Ravens head coach Brian Billick and Las Vegas, have claimed the Browns to be the favorites without playing a game with the newly-acquired Beckham Jr. 

All this taken into consideration, the Ravens will enter the 2019 season as reigning AFC North champions.

Jefferson is exactly right. 

The Ravens have certainly lost key figures on the defensive side of the ball, where they hang there hat on. Losing CJ Mosley and Terrell Suggs will be hard to replace, but if any team can it's the Ravens. Baltimore upgraded at safety after signing Earl Thomas III to a four-year contract. 

The Ravens can play the same way they did in the final half of the season in 2018. They can run the football, control the clock, and play solid defense. 

The notion that the Browns are clear favorites is simply false.

Cleveland will be led by new head coach Freddie Kitchens, who has no head coaching experience at any level of football. 

The defense of Cleveland showed great potential in 2018, but that was with interim head coach/defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the New York Jets. Replacing Williams has gone under the rader and the defense will have to follow new leadership. 

This post isn't to say the Browns aren't going to win the division. It is way to early to predict, as injuries and more moves are yet to be seen. The Browns will surely be competitive and the Steelers will once again be a formidable contender in 2019.

NFL games are not played on paper. They are played on the field. The Ravens are the reigning AFC North champions. 

And until the end of the 2019 season, the division is there's to lose. 

What do you think of the latest moves in the AFC North?