The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl, but they acknowledged that the AFC North will undergo changes. We're not talking about the annual collision between the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, two teams that often articulated convincing arguments for division superiority while the Cincinnati Bengals (and to some degree the Cleveland Browns), watched from afar. In fact the Pittsburgh Steelers might be aging themselves out without significant adjustment to account for changes, while the Cincinnati Bengals have rebuilt their roster through the draft.
And people have noticed.
During media week and the days leading to the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens noted Cincinnati's youth movement that could eventually develop into the next rivalry in the division. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice made it a point after winning the Super Bowl on Sunday.
"It's going to be Baltimore and Cincinnati battling for the AFC North now," he said. "They're young. It’s good to be young."
However the Baltimore Ravens will be facing their own changes this offseason with the retirement of Ray Lewis and probable departures of safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Anquan Boldin, leaving an opening for Cincinnati to finally sit atop of the division with a little more consistency than one season in 2009. If anything the playing field is evening out.
"(The Ravens are) going through major changes over the offseason," Boomer Esiason told Geoff Hobson with Bengals.com. "No Ray Lewis. Most likely no Ed Reed, so now all of a sudden it's the changing of the guard and Cincinnati is an up and coming team. They play the Ravens tough all the time. The Steelers are going to be good as long as Ben (Roethlisberger) is there, they're going to be good, strong and tough. The Bengals are right there with the Steelers. Baltimore's not here except for a 70-yard miracle touchdown pass (in Denver). Now they did beat the crap out of New England in the second half. I take nothing away from them. The AFC to me is wide open."