Friday, September 7, 2012

Browns face a big challenge in AFC North

Playing in the AFC North has added to the difficulty the Browns have faced in their 13-year building process.

In the NFL alignment of eight divisions with four teams each, which has been in place for 10 seasons, only the NFC East has been more competitive than the AFC North. Some statistics:

-- The North has earned five of the eight AFC wild cards the past four seasons, including both of the two available in 2011. The North has earned seven of the 20 wild cards available in the 10 years of this format, the most of any AFC division. Only the NFC East bests the AFC North as far as wild cards earned. Since the alignment change in 2002, it has nine of the NFC's 20 berths.

-- In the 10 years of the current alignment the Steelers (third, 105 wins) and Ravens (seventh, 94 wins) have two of the best win totals in the NFL.

The Patriots (AFC East) and Colts (AFC South) dominate these statistics, of course. New England has 123 victories and four Super Bowl appearances in the 10 years of this alignment. Indianapolis has 111 victories and two Super Bowl appearances.

What's different about this from the Browns' perspective is they have to get past two of the AFC's best in their division instead of one. For example, the Jets made back-to-back appearances in the AFC championship game in the 2009-10 seasons. After New England, New York's divisional foes -- the Dolphins and Bills -- have only won 42.1 percent of their games since 2002.

The Browns, meanwhile, have to get past Steelers and Ravens, who have been consistently good since Cleveland re-entered the league in 1999. Even the Bengals have had their moments.

A maximum of three teams can make it from each division each year, as the AFC North did last year. You already know the Browns weren't one of those three.

If the Browns ever get it together, they'll have to do it in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. Whenever they make it back to the playoffs, they will have been tested.

- Howard Primer

Super Bowl victories:
AFC East: 2
AFC North: 2
AFC South: 1
AFC West: 0
NFC East: 2
NFC North: 1
NFC South: 2
NFC West: 0

Super Bowl appearances:
AFC East: 4
AFC North: 3
AFC South: 2
AFC West: 1
NFC East: 3
NFC North: 2
NFC South: 3
NFC West: 2

Wild-card spots earned:
AFC East: 4
AFC North: 7
AFC South: 6
AFC West: 3
NFC East: 9
NFC North: 5
NFC South: 4
NFC West: 2

Most wins in the past 10 seasons:
1. Patriots 123
2. Colts 111
3. Steelers 105
4. Eagles 99
5. Packers 99
6. Chargers 96
7. Ravens 94
8. Saints 90
9. Giants 88
10. Falcons 87
T-29: Browns, Raiders, Rams 56


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