In addition to their regular division games, the members of the AFC North will play the AFC East and the NFC North. Though the Patriots and Packers will be no picnic, there are a slew of beatable teams in both divisions. With the talent inside the division and the light schedule, the AFC North could again send two teams to the playoffs, if not three.
The defending champion Ravens open the season with a heavyweight matchup, playing the Broncos on Thursday night. Their first seven weeks aren't easy overall, having to face the Texans, Packers and Steelers before their Week 8 bye. But the schedule softens later, with the Browns, Lions and a home game against the Bengals.
The premier rivalry in the NFL, the Steelers and Ravens, will play their pair of annual bloodbaths. Pittsburgh will host the first meeting in Week 7, with Baltimore returning the favor in Week 13. After Pittsburgh faces the Patriots in Week 9, the schedule softens, culminating in a home game against Cleveland in Week 17. If it weren't for those pesky Ravens, Pittsburgh would have one of the easier schedules in football.
To earn their third straight playoff berth, the Bengals will have to survive a late-season onslaught. In their final eight games, Cincinnati plays the Ravens twice, as well as the Colts, Steelers, Chargers. The Bengals can cross their fingers that the Ravens have nothing to play for in their Week 17 meeting.
Obviously the main draws are the Steelers-Ravens games, but Baltimore's prime time games against New England and Denver will be musts for NFL fans. The Bengals have been sneaky good the last four years, making the playoffs three times.