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The AFC North has quietly become the worst division in the NFL

The division isn’t yet out of reach for any team, even the winless Browns.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

With Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expected to miss more time than initially expected with a torn meniscus and Joe Flacco sidelined today with a shoulder injury, the AFC North has quietly become as bad as the AFC South.

The Steelers lead the division at 4-2, but their losses have been abysmal. Pittsburgh got embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles with a final score of 34-3, and in Week 6 they fell to the Miami Dolphins 30-15. Roethlisberger was injured in the loss to the Dolphins, and while a meniscus tear is less serious than ligament injuries in the knee, he had surgery Monday and is likely out four to six weeks while he recovers.

The Steelers have plenty of impact players on the roster who are healthy, but wide receiver Antonio Brown hasn’t been anywhere near as effective with any quarterback other than Roethlisberger.

The Ravens are second in the AFC North with a 3-3 record, but injuries present some concerns for Baltimore. Last week, the Ravens had a crowded injury report with a lot of key players listed, and this week includes Flacco, Terrell Suggs and cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Baltimore has mostly been a fixture in the playoffs throughout Flacco’s career, just missing the postseason in 2013 and 2015, when Flacco was out with a torn ACL and MCL. Even at .500, and with three consecutive losses, they’ve got a solid shot at a postseason bid this year.

Even though the Bengals are third right now at 2-4, they’re certainly not out of the running to win the division. The Bengals have only lost to teams with winning records, and the remainder of Cincinnati’s schedule features teams like the Texans — who lead the AFC South, by some miracle — and the Bengals still face the winless Browns twice.

Speaking of the Browns, they’re technically not out of the playoff picture just yet, either, even though they’re currently 0-6. Sure, the Browns haven’t won a game this season, and every single player that has taken a snap for them at quarterback, including Terrelle Pryor, has been injured.

With the uncertainty around the rest of the division, it’s not over for the Browns. While there are plenty of reasons to feel sorry for Cleveland, the Browns have lost three of six games by less than one touchdown. If they can just get some continuity at quarterback, there’s still a chance they can turn things around.

Sure, the Browns probably need to win at least nine of their remaining 10 games to have a shot at the postseason, but they’re definitely not mathematically eliminated. Cling to that hope, Browns fans. The division isn’t nearly as strong this season as it has been in recent years, and you still have a shot.

Since 2008, the AFC North has had at least two teams representing the division in the playoffs every season but 2013. In 2014, the Steelers won the division, and the Ravens and Bengals locked up both wildcard spots. This season, though, the AFC North is unlikely to have more than one team representing the division in the postseason.

The Houston Texans lead the AFC South this season with a record of 4-2, somehow, despite getting shut out completely by the New England Patriots featuring Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and having a turnover ratio of -4. The Texans have been outscored by opponents 127-108 through six weeks of the season, and have still managed to win four games.

The rest of the division is worse than the Texans. The Titans are 3-3, and the Jaguars and Colts have two wins each.

The AFC North has, for the past several seasons, been one to reckon with, and this year it may not be much better than the much-maligned AFC South.