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The American Football Conference North Division, or AFC North, is a division of the National Football League's American Football Conference. It was created prior to the 2002 season when the league realigned divisions after expanding to 32 teams. The AFC North replaced the AFC Central, a division which existed from the 1970 season through the 2001 season. That division in turn replaced the NFL Century Division, albeit with the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals being replaced with two other teams (as opposed to one, see below).

The AFC North currently has four members: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers. The original four members of the AFC Central were the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans), the Browns, the Bengals and the Steelers. The Jacksonville Jaguars joined the AFC Central in 1995. The Browns relocated and were rechristened the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. The league added an expansion team to Cleveland in 1999 and named them the Browns, in spite of having no relationship to the original Browns franchise other than being located in the same city. The Jaguars and Titans have since been realigned to the AFC South. The AFC North is the only division in the AFC that does not contain a charter team from the original American Football League. However, the Bengals were an AFL expansion team in 1968 (The Steelers and Browns joined the AFC from the NFL in 1970).

Three of the teams have interlocked histories. Both the Bengals and the original Browns (now Ravens) were founded by Paul Brown, while the Ravens and the city of Cleveland have their own unique relationship. Only the Steelers, who are older than the original Browns, have no direct history involving Paul Brown.

Contents

History

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1970s

Although the Bengals won the first AFC Central Division Championship in 1970, the Steelers dominated the division for most of the 1970s, a decade that also saw them win four Super Bowls.

1980s

The 1980 Cleveland Browns broke the Steelers' six-year run as division champions, but failed to advance past the divisional round of the playoffs, losing to the Oakland Raiders as a result of Red Right 88. The Bengals were the only team to represent the AFC Central in the Super Bowl during the decade, appearing in Super Bowls XVI and XXIII. Both appearances resulted in close losses to the San Francisco 49ers.

1990s

The Steelers returned as the dominant team in the division in 1992. They won five divisional titles in six years, and played in Super Bowl XXX, in which they lost to the Dallas Cowboys.

In 1992, the Oilers were involved in one of the most famous playoff games in NFL history. In a game now known as The Comeback, the Oilers surrendered a 32-point lead to the Buffalo Bills and lost in overtime, 41-38. It is the largest deficit ever overcome in the history of the NFL.

In 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars joined the league through expansion and were placed in the AFC Central. It was the first change to the structure of the division since its inception. Two years later, the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy saw the Browns move to Baltimore and be rechristened as the Baltimore Ravens. Then in 1997, the Oilers moved to Tennessee but remained in the division (the team later was renamed the Titans in 1999). The makeup of the AFC Central changed once again in 1999 when the Browns returned to the NFL. The division had six teams for the 1999, 2000 and 2001 seasons.

Aside from Pittsburgh's appearance in Super Bowl XXX, the only other appearance in the Super Bowl for the division in the decade was the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, who came up one yard short of the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. Along the way, the team got revenge on the Bills seven years after the Comeback in the Wild Card round by defeating the Bills 22-16 as a result of the Music City Miracle.

2000s

The decade began with the Ravens winning Super Bowl XXXV, to the dismay of Browns fans. The team's defense, led by linebacker Ray Lewis, was arguably one of the best defenses in the NFL that season.

In 2002 the NFL realigned into eight divisions of four teams, and the AFC Central became the AFC North. (The Jaguars and Titans--the latter winning the AFC Central title in 2000--were both moved to the new AFC South.) In this new decade, the Steelers have won the division title four times, the Ravens and Bengals have each won the division twice.

In 2005, although finishing second in the division to the Bengals, the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to enter the playoffs as a #6 seeded wild card team and win the Super Bowl.

In 2008, the Steelers became the first team to repeat as division champion since the divisions' creation in 2002. The team went on to win Super Bowl XLIII that season, their second Super Bowl in four years and an NFL-record sixth overall.

In 2009, the Bengals won the AFC North championship on the heels of an unprecedented 6-0 sweep of their division foes.

Division champions

Season Team Record Playoff Results
AFC Central
1970 Cincinnati Bengals 8-6-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1971 Cleveland Browns 9-5-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1972 Pittsburgh Steelers 11-3-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
1973 Cincinnati Bengals 10-4-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1974 Pittsburgh Steelers 10-3-1 Won Super Bowl IX
1975 Pittsburgh Steelers 12-2-0 Won Super Bowl X
1976 Pittsburgh Steelers 10-4-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
1977 Pittsburgh Steelers 9-5-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1978 Pittsburgh Steelers 14-2-0 Won Super Bowl XIII
1979 Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4-0 Won Super Bowl XIV
1980 Cleveland Browns 11-5-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1981 Cincinnati Bengals 12-4-0 Lost Super Bowl XVI
1982+ Cincinnati Bengals 7-2-0 Lost AFC First Round
1983 Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1984 Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
1985 Cleveland Browns 8-8-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1986 Cleveland Browns 12-4-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
1987 Cleveland Browns 10-5-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
1988 Cincinnati Bengals 12-4-0 Lost Super Bowl XXIII
1989 Cleveland Browns 9-6-1 Lost AFC Championship Game
1990 Cincinnati Bengals 9-7-0 Lost Divisional Playoffs
1991 Houston Oilers 11-5-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1992 Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1993 Houston Oilers 12-4-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1994 Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
1995 Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5-0 Lost Super Bowl XXX
1996 Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1997 Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
1998 Jacksonville Jaguars 11-5-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
1999 Jacksonville Jaguars 14-2-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
2000++ Tennessee Titans 13-3-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
2001 Pittsburgh Steelers 13-3-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
AFC North
2002 Pittsburgh Steelers 10-5-1 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
2003 Baltimore Ravens 10-6-0 Lost AFC Wild Card Playoffs
2004 Pittsburgh Steelers 15-1-0 Lost AFC Championship Game
2005++ Cincinnati Bengals 11-5-0 Lost AFC Wild Card Playoffs
2006 Baltimore Ravens 13-3-0 Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
2007 Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6-0 Lost AFC Wild Card playoffs
2008 Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4-0 Won Super Bowl XLIII
2009 Cincinnati Bengals 10-6-0 Lost AFC Wild Card playoffs

+ A players' strike in 1982 reduced the regular season to nine games. Because of the strike, the league used for its playoffs a special 16-team "Super Bowl Tournament" just for this year. Division standings were not formally acknowledged (although every division wound up sending at least one team to the playoffs); Cincinnati had the best record of the division teams (and so has been unofficially recognized as the winner of the AFC Central for 1982).

++ Baltimore and Pittsburgh went on to win Super Bowl XXXV and Super Bowl XL, respectively, as wild card teams.

Total playoff berths

Team Championships Playoff Berths
Pittsburgh Steelers 19 25
Cincinnati Bengals 8 9
Cleveland Browns[1] 6 12
Houston/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans[2] 3 12
Jacksonville Jaguars[3] 2 4
Baltimore Ravens[4] 2 6

References

  1. ^ This refers to the team that the league officially views as one continuous franchise that entered the division in 1970, suspended operations from 1996-1998, and resumed play in 1999.
  2. ^ Known as the Houston Oilers until 1996, as the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 and 1998, and the Tennessee Titans since 1999. Realigned into the AFC South in 2002.
  3. ^ Realigned into the AFC South in 2002.
  4. ^ This refers to the team that the league officially views as an expansion team that began play in 1996.

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