The AFC North, one of the toughest divisions in football, has roots to some of the greatest rivalries in the sport.

These rivalries have been formed by teams whose foundations lay on the art of a strong defence. So tough are these defences that they have gained notoriety around the league for being so called "smash-mouth" squads.

This sets up a tough division that features the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens - reloaded and ready to go - and the battered and bruised Pittsburgh Steelers, who look to bring down any team unfortunate enough to stand in their way.

The rising Cincinnati Bengals, who are aiming for their third straight playoff appearance, and the hopeful Cleveland Browns, who look to stay competitive and inch closer to the rest of the division.

Without further or do, here are the 2013 AFC North pre-season predictions:  

4th: Cleveland Browns 7-9

The Browns gain a little bit of ground each year. Providing that Trent Richardson stays healthy, the Browns have found a solution to their running game.

With some key additions on defence, the Browns look to be committed to the product that they are fielding and look to improve year by year. 

3rd: Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8

The seemingly ageless wonders that were the Steelers have since discovered that it takes longer to recover from injuries the older that you get.

The Steelers are crippled with injuries this season but still field a defence that can compete with anyone any day.

The fear and intimidation that the black and gold bring to the gridiron will still help them to compete, however compared to the top teams in the division and conference, health will be the one obstacle that hinders the Steelers this season.

2nd: Cincinnati Bengals 10-6

The Bengals are good, plain and simple. They are a young team with a fiery passion to win immediately.

However, Andy Dalton has yet to prove his worth in the playoffs. With a young squad comes the unexpected. The Bengals alone control the type of team that they want to be.

This is a tough decision to make because the Bengals have the talent to go 13-3, but anticipating the unexpected and taking into consideration the youth of the team, the Bengals pull into second with their third straight playoff appearance. 

1st: Baltimore Ravens: 11-5

The Ravens are a reloaded team no matter what anyone says. People may bring up the fact that they lost two future hall of fame inductees in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, as well as some key playmakers on both the defence and offence.

One would be right to be sceptical about the Ravens chances but, with the most effective pass rush in the league featuring Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, a fierce front seven, and a mix of experience and youth in the secondary, the Ravens defence is ready to roll.

The offence has already dealt with injuries due to the loss of tight end Dennis Pitta for the year.

However, the Ravens have brought in some key players who may fly under the radar this season but, will help push the offence forward.

Predicitons

AFC North Champion: Baltimore Ravens
Wild Card: Cincinnati Bengals

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Topics:
NFL
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens