Well, not Cleveland or Cincinnati. That is the easy part. But Baltimore and Pittsburgh are knotted up at 6-3 and are in a dog fight with each other with only seven games remaining. To help me pick a winner, I took a look at the history of the AFC North and playoff accomplishments since it was born in 2002:
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Total Percentage
Pittsburgh 10-5-1* 6-10 15-1* 11-5* 8-8 10-6* 6-3 66-38-1 .633
Baltimore 7-9 10-6** 9-7 6-10 13-3** 5-11 6-3 56-49 .533
Cincinnati 2-14 8-8 8-8 11-5*** 8-8 7-9 1-8 45-60 .429 .
Cleveland 9-7**** 5-11 4-12 6-10 4-12 10-6 3-6 41-64 .390
* '02 lost in divisional round, '04 lost in AFC championship, '05 won superbowl, '07 lost in divisional round
** '03 lost in wild card round, '06 lost in divisional round
*** '05 lost in wild card round
**** '02 lost in wild card round
I added Cleveland and Cincinnati to my table because I wanted to see how bad it really was for them as a curiosity. Pretty sad, isn't it? They are not a factor obviously in 2008's division race. Then I looked at the schedules of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Surprisingly of the seven remaining games, Cincinnati is the only common opponent. They also play each other on December 14.
week 11 San Diego H 4-5 NYG A 8-1
week 12 Cincyi H 1-8 Phily H 5-4
week 13 NE A 6-3 Cincy A 1-8
week 14 Dallas H 5-4 Wash H 6-3
week 15 Balt A 6-3 Pitts H 6-3
week 16 Tenn A 9-0 Dal A 5-4
week 17 Clv H 3-6 Jax H 4-5
Total 4H, 3A 34-29 4H, 3A 35-28
The schedules look very even with both teams playing four home games and nearly identical win/loss percentages for the two teams. Excluding the head to head match up in week 15, I figure Pittsburgh will lose to NE and Tennessee on the road and blow one of it's home games. Baltimore will lose to Dallas and the NYG's on the road and also blow one of its home games. So I see it coming down to the head to head match-up in Baltimore for the division title. Pittsburgh won the first meeting in a nail biter 23-20. Typically two good teams split the season series and win at home. For that reason I go with Baltimore winning another nail biter at home and taking the division with a 10-6 record to Pittsburgh's 9-7, not quite good enough for a wild card.
To Pittsburgh fans, it's true you have the better record by far since 2002 and have been to the playoffs more times including a superbowl victory. Baltimore has not seen an AFC Championship game over that span. But I am discounting the history. What I see is Flacco looking very good as a starting QB. I see a superior Baltimore offensive line to Pittsburgh's and a defense that is nearly as stiffling. Flacco was very poised in coming back from a 14 point 2nd half deficit in Cleveland that I had the displeasure to personally witness. More than anything, I am going on gut feel. But don't fear Pittsburgh fans. You should know I picked the Browns winning the divsion at the start of the season. If anyone has reason for concern at my prediction, it is the Baltimore Ravens.