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AFC North ‘Best Division In Football’

The Ravens could see their division foes again in the playoffs.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Thursday, January 5th, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Categories: Garrett Downing

The Ravens consistently talk about the challenge of winning games in their division, and this year that was especially true.

The AFC North is the only division in the NFL with three playoff teams, and the combined records of the four teams in the division against the rest of the NFL is 25-15.

“This is the best division in football,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s not even close.”

Baltimore went 6-0 in the AFC North and won the division for the first time since 2006, but the Ravens still have a decent chance to see either the Bengals (9-7) or Steelers (12-4) again in the postseason.

In the wild-card round this weekend, the Bengals travel to Houston (10-6) and the Steelers will go to Denver (8-8).

Denver and Houston have both lost three straight games, so it’s plausible that the three AFC North teams could make the second round, and then two of them potentially match up in the AFC Championship game.

“That just says we got a tough division,” said fullback Vonta Leach, who has played in three divisions in his eight-year career. “Our division is one that everybody has a tough time playing against.”

At least one team from the AFC North has made the AFC Championship in four of the last seven seasons, and the Ravens wouldn’t be surprised to see the trend repeated again this year.

“Obviously, there’s a good chance we could see one or both teams [again],” center Matt Birk said. “It seems to be happening often enough here that it’s really not a surprise anymore.”

If the Ravens do end up facing Cincinnati or Pittsburgh again, the good news is that Baltimore knows both teams well and has proven it can beat them.

“There is a familiarity there, but familiarity goes both ways,” Birk said. “You’re careful that you don’t feel like you know somebody or know their team too well.”

The traditional mark of teams in the AFC North is having great defenses, and that is once again the case this season. All four teams in the division are ranked in the top 10 in total defense, and the Ravens and Steelers are both ranked in the top three.

“The four teams that play in it are outdoor teams, cold weather, so they’re kind of built for these types of [late-season] games,” Birk said. “When you’re talking about a football team that you want to build, you want it to be tough, you want to be able to run the ball and stop the run, and that’s what the AFC North is about.”

“We always think our division is the strongest,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “It’s good to see three of our guys in there. It’s a testament to how tough our division is.”

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