2024 NFL Season: Ranking Every AFC North Roster

The Ravens are still the best team in the NFL’s best division, but here’s how four legitimate playoff contenders stack up.
Lamar Jackson won his second MVP after leading the Ravens to the No. 1 seed in 2023.
Lamar Jackson won his second MVP after leading the Ravens to the No. 1 seed in 2023. / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

No division in the NFL is better than the AFC North.

Unlike the other seven around the league, with the possible exception of the NFC North, there’s a case to be made for all four teams to reach the postseason. 

While the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals have championship aspirations, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns can harbor legitimate hopes of not only reaching the playoffs but winning a game or two. For them, it’s about the quarterbacks.

So which team enters the summer with the best roster within the division? Who has the worst? Let’s break it down.

1. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens and Bengals are close for the top spot here, but Baltimore’s roster is well-rounded in a way Cincinnati’s isn’t. 

The Ravens lost some pieces this offseason, including edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, safety Geno Stone, tackle Morgan Moses, guards Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson, and linebacker Patrick Queen among others.

Still, Baltimore has a team capable of making a Super Bowl run, speaking to how great the team was in 2023 when it captured the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Ravens are led by two-time and reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, and now have future Hall of Fame running back Derrick Henry flanking him in the backfield. 

Additionally, Baltimore has tight end Mark Andrews and second-year receiver Zay Flowers for Jackson to target, giving him a chance to increase his passing output. 

While the Ravens aren’t as strong as they were a season ago, they still enjoy one of the league's best rosters. 

2. Cincinnati Bengals

With Joe Burrow back and healthy, the Bengals are contenders once again. However, the offense around him looks much different from the 2023 edition.

No longer will Joe Mixon be in the backfield. Instead, it’ll be free-agent signing Zack Moss, fresh off a breakout campaign with the Indianapolis Colts. At receiver, Cincinnati said goodbye to Tyler Boyd, one of the longest-tenured Bengals in the salary cap era. Without Boyd, the target share for both Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase will be increased, putting an even greater onus on their respective health.

Defensively, this is a well-coached unit by Lou Anarumo but also one that struggled last year. With Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins and Sam Hubbard up front, the pass rush shouldn’t be an issue. The big question is in the secondary, with Geno Stone and Vonn Bell forming a new safety tandem, along with young corners in Cam Taylor-Britt and DJ Turner II.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have questions galore at quarterback with Justin Fields and Russell Wilson under center. However, that duo is still better than Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph, who somehow managed to guide Pittsburgh into the playoffs last season.

Elsewhere on the roster, the Steelers look set in most spots. The offensive line got a massive talent infusion during the draft with guards Troy Fautanu and Mason McCormick, and center Zach Frazier. The receiving options are also respectable with receiver George Pickens and tight end Pat Freiermuth, alongside rookie wideout Roman Wilson.

Defensively, the Steelers have the potential for an elite unit. Pittsburgh added Patrick Queen at the second level, putting him behind T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith and Cam Heyward. If the secondary can do its job, the Steelers should shut down many opponents. The good news? That group has second-year corner Joey Porter Jr. joined by safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and DeShon Elliott.

4. Cleveland Browns

Many Browns fans will likely be furious with these rankings, but frankly, it's about the quarterback. 

Until Deshaun Watson looks like someone worth even half of his cap number, what’s the argument for Cleveland to be ahead of the Ravens or Bengals? So really, it’s a battle for third with the Steelers, and although Wilson is clearly on the downside of his career (just ask the Denver Broncos and his $85 million in dead money there), he’s still better than Watson, who has been hurt or awful in Cleveland.

Outside of Watson, the Browns are terrific. They have an excellent defense led by edge rusher Myles Garrett and corner Denzel Ward. Offensively, there’s a trio of legit receivers in Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy and Elijah Moore, accompanied by tight end David Njoku and running back Nick Chubb. The line also remains above-average with Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller, Jedrick Wills Jr., Ethan Pocic and Jack Conklin.

But is all that enough to overcome the anchor that is Watson? Time will tell.


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Matt Verderame

MATT VERDERAME

Matt Verderame is an NFL staff writer for Sports Illustrated. He hosts The Matt Verderame Show on Patreon; previously wrote for FanSided and Awful Announcing; and is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. A proud father of two girls and lover of all Italian food, Matt is an eternal defender of Rudy, the greatest football movie of all time.