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The AFC North Is On The Rise Because Of Young Quarterbacks

 Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Baltimore.
Gail Burton
/
AP
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Baltimore.

The AFC North is becoming one of the most dominant in the NFL. While the Browns have a winning record at 4-3, they're in third place in the division behind the Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) and the Baltimore Ravens (5-2).

That means the Browns face two must-win games ahead against division foes Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Terry Pluto said for the Browns, lots of questions about quarterback Baker Mayfield's ability to stack up in this tough division is putting added pressure on the team, especially as contract negotiations loom.

Odd team out

The AFC North has become a battle between young quarterbacks: Cleveland's Mayfield, Baltimore's Lamar Jackson and Cincinnati's Joe Burrow.

That leaves Pittsburgh Steelers as the odd team out.

"For years, [Ben Roethlisberger] was the best quarterback in the division — no longer," Pluto said. "Sometimes you can win in spite of your quarterback, and [the Steelers] have done that. That's why they are 3-3."

This appears to be Roethlisberger's last season. At 39, he entered the NFL while Mayfield, Jackson and Burrow were still in elementary school.

"And [Roethlisberger] looks all of 39," Pluto said.

"If the Browns have any hope of winning the [AFC North], they better beat the Steelers Sunday no matter [who is starting at quarterback]."
Terry Pluto

Big picture

Pluto said among the AFC North's young quarterbacks, one stands out: Burrow.

"[He's] the next big-timer. He's throwing it all over the field. When [Mayfield] gets hot, he's a lot of fun. Jackson is electric with his running and agility to drive defenses crazy."

As for Mayfield, the immediate future is up in the air. He has an injured non-throwing shoulder that will likely keep him sidelined this Sunday against the Steelers.

Still, Pluto said the rise of the AFC North is something fans should be excited about.

"If you're a Browns fan, the next few years are going to be entertaining," Pluto said.

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