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In-season Hard Knocks will focus on the teams of the AFC North

The NFL has decided to make in-season Hard Knocks a full-division affair. This year, it will be the AFC North.

It’s arguably the toughest division in football, with plenty of questions as to which team will emerge as the champion.

The series starts later than usual. Typically a November endeavor, Hard Knocks debuts on December 3. It continues through the playoffs, presumably until the playoff run for each AFC North team has ended.

The pivot to involving all four teams from one division apparently flows from the competitive disadvantage that occurs when one team gets the assignment. This approach ignores the fact that, beyond the team that wins the division, the second-place (and maybe third- and fourth-place) teams will be trying to win wild-card berths. The competition for those slots includes other AFC teams that won’t be hampered by the Hard Knocks assignment.

Regardless, the Ravens, Browns, Bengals, and Steelers will have to deal with it.