We start the first AFC division with the AFC North. Last season two AFC North teams represented the division and the Ravens nearly made it to the big dance. This maybe the NFL hardest hitting smash mouth division. Every teams looks to pounds the ball, use the clock and has key defensive players on each team. Here are my AFC North predictions worst to first.
Cleveland Browns:(2011: 4-12 2012: 6-10)
Since Lebron’s decision, Cleveland fans have been looking for something to cheer for. Although this won’t be that season, the browns are moving in the right direction. With a rookie combo of quarterback Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson second year head coach in Pat Shurmur has to show and prove. Colt McCoy seems to be a better QB under pocket but I guess things the Browns brass feels different. The Browns should inprove slightly but thr Ravens & Steelers hurdles will be to huge to jump this year. Also the lost of Peyton Hillis may hurt. Opponents will stack eight in the box and force Weeden to pass. Expect big years from Josh Cribbs, Greg Little and Joe Harden.
Key Additions: Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden
Key Loses: Peyton Hillis
Cincinnati Bengals: (2011: 9-7 2012: 9-7)
Cincy was a team that really surprised me last season. The combo of Dalton to Green can one day maybe remind us of the magic we would see from Montana and Rice. The addition of RB Ben Jarvis- Green will more than fill the void Cedric Benson left with his departure and if Tight end Jermaine Gresham can step up Cincy’s offense should pick up where they left off. Cincy also features a nasty defensive lead by former USC linebacker Rey Maualuga which added former Cowboy Terrance Newman to the group. I like the Bengals to be in the postseason race but to fall one game short.
Key Additions: Ben Jarvis-Green, Terrance Newman
Key Loses: None
Pittsburgh Steelers: (2011: 12-4 2012: 10-6)
I’m very much aware of the phrase ” if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but I’m uncertain how that helped the Steelers this year. The Steelers made no huge off-season moves, had Wide out Mike Walkace hold out and signed no key free agents. LB James Harrison may play with injuries all year. The steelers are solid on both sides of the ball but could use upgrades at the running back and defensive back positions. I also see room for improvement at Wide out. Maybe a T.O. Signing in the near future? The Steelers will make the playoffs in 2012 but will be a first round knock out. Sorry Wiz, no black & yellow this year.
Key Additions: Coach Todd Haley
Key Loses: Hines Ward
Baltimore Ravens: (2011: 12-4 2012:11-5)
I always count the ravens out and they always surprise me so I’m picking them to win this division. With a Rock solid Defense lead by Ray Lewis,Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs all the pressure is on the Ravens offense. Ray Rice and Joe Flacco have found help in wide receivers Boldin and Smith and look to be a force to be dealt with. The Ravens could have easily represented the AFC in last years Super Bowl but a missed Billy Cudiff field goal ended that dream. A week 13 meeting VS. Pittsburgh may decide this division but I see the Ravens marching to the AFC championship game once again and losing to a team to be announced toward the end of the NFL preview.
Key Additions:KBernard Pierrce, Courtney Upshaw, Jacoby Jones
Key Loses: Billy Cundiff (or maybe thats a good thing)
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