AFC North Nears Historic First in 88 Years with Bengals-Browns Week 18 Clash

An Unprecedented Divisional Triumph Looms in NFL Week 18.

by Nouman Rasool
AFC North Nears Historic First in 88 Years with Bengals-Browns Week 18 Clash
© Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In the world of professional football, the Week 18 clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns in the NFL is more than just a regular-season finale. While the Browns have secured the fifth seed in the AFC and the Bengals are out of playoff contention, there's an undercurrent of historical significance in this seemingly inconsequential match-up.

AFC North's Historic Bid

The AFC North, a division renowned for its competitive spirit, is on the cusp of achieving a remarkable feat not witnessed since the days before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Should the Bengals triumph over the Browns, they would elevate their record to a winning 9-8 for the season.

This victory, though modest in isolation, carries the weight of history: it would mark the first instance since the merger that every team in a single division finishes the season above .500. As we stand, the AFC North's standings are a testament to the division's strength:

  1. Ravens at an impressive 13-3
  2. Browns holding a strong 11-5
  3. Steelers closely trailing at 9-7
  4. Bengals balancing at 8-8
Over the past five decades, the NFL has seen several divisions flirt with this achievement, yet it remained elusive.

Just last year, the NFC East nearly etched its name in the annals of history, only to have the Washington Commanders falter in the final stretch, ending their season at 8-8-1. The historical significance of this potential outcome harks back to an era long past.

The last time a division achieved this collective over-.500 finish was in the NFL West in 1935 – an epochal 88 years ago. That year, the division was a powerhouse:

  1. Detroit Lions leading with a 7-3-2 record
  2. Green Bay Packers close behind at 8-4
  3. Chicago Bears and Cardinals, both ending with 6-4-2
The NFL West of 1935 was not only notable for its balanced strength but also for its impact on the season's conclusion, producing the NFL champion when the Lions triumphed over the New York Giants in the title game.

This was a time when the Cardinals still called Chicago home, long before their migrations to St. Louis and eventually Arizona. As the Bengals and Browns prepare to face off, the stakes transcend personal rivalries and playoff implications.

They stand on the brink of making NFL history, a feat that would etch the AFC North's name in the record books alongside the legendary NFL West of 1935. This matchup, seemingly inconsequential in the broader playoff narrative, is imbued with the potential to redefine the legacy of an entire division.

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