The AFC North is up for grabs. Unlike the NFC South, it has "winning" teams competing for the division title.
Coming into Week 13, all four teams (even the Browns) have seven wins, and the Bengals hold a half game lead with their tie against Carolina. Everyone else is 7-4 and its a gridlock for the wild card spots, as the Ravens, Steelers and Browns sit in the seventh, eighth and ninth spots in that order.
It is currently the best division in the NFL, with the NFC and AFC West divisions following right behind it.
Usually, this division is Pittsburgh and Baltimore battling it out into January, or more recently, Baltimore and Cincinnati fighting for the crown. Between the three, all of them find themselves in the fight for the division and/or a wild card spot.
But here come the Cleveland Browns. The Browns? The Cleveland "We've had far too many starting quarterbacks to count since 1999" Browns? Yes. The Browns are in the hunt for the AFC north crown. For the early part of the season, Brian Hoyer made an impact. It hasn't been like that as of late.
In Week 1, Cleveland trailed Pittsburgh 24-3 at halftime. There were bets being taken if Johnny Manziel would take over in the second half. Well, he did not and Hoyer lead a second half comeback to tie the Steelers late before Shaun Suisham kicked a game-winning field goal to give Pittsburgh a 27-24 win that could have proved to be a monumental collapse in the first game of the year.
The Browns have taken advantage of a weak NFC South, but have shot themselves in the foot with losses to Jacksonville and even Houston. They dominated Pittsburgh at home on October 12th and beat the Bengals on the road on a Thursday night.
How realistic is it that the Browns could win the AFC North?
This is the remaining schedule for Cleveland:
November 30th: at Buffalo (6-5)
December 7th: Indianapolis (7-4/Division Leader)
December 14th: Cincinnati (7-3-1/Division Leader)
December 21st: at Carolina (3-7)
December 28th: at Baltimore (7-4/Holds Current Tiebreaker for 2nd Place in AFC North)
This Sunday, they have to face the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium against a Buffalo team that will have an emotional homecoming after the snowstorm forced them to relocate to Detroit for this previous weeks game. It is winnable, but it could be a trap.
Obviously, Cincinnati and Baltimore will be the most important games in December.
The Colts are currently leading the AFC South and will most likely win it unless a collapse occurs, and the Panthers still have a chance to win a pitiful NFC South. They could win it with a 6-10, maybe even a 5-11 record. A win over Carolina means a clean sweep of that division. They and Baltimore would be the only two teams in the AFC North to do that.
Here are the remaining game for the other AFC North teams:
The Bengals and Steelers have the more challenging schedules of the four.
Pittsburgh still has to play the Bengals twice, and could be in for a trap game in the Georgia Dome against the Flacons. Chiefs at Heinz Field could be another game to watch out for. Even the Saints, despite having an atrocious 4-7 record, could knock off Pittsburgh this Sunday.
Cincinnati has Pittsburgh twice, obviously, and the Broncos visit them on December 21st. They also have to go to Cleveland, which could be trouble.
Based on how the league look currently, the Ravens have the easier of the three schedules. San Diego this Sunday looks like the biggest hurdle going into December. They meet Cleveland for Week 17 matchup at home. Advantage: Baltimore.
Of course. You have to remember that this is the Cleveland Browns. They have been more disappointing than successful since their return to the NFL in 1999. Most are probably expecting them to stumble in December, but they have made it this far.