The AFC North will be more competitive this year. Although the norm seems to be the Steelers and Ravens dominating the North, the Browns will be on their heels. There is an expectation that the Browns are actually a dark horse to make the wild card playoffs. It is lofty to expect any 0-16 team to advance to the playoffs the year after. Let’s take an objective look at how the division will probably look after the regular season is done.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 12-4– Ben Roethlisberger is quickly heading to the twilight of his career. However, with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell still being the cogwheels of the steel city offense, this team will put up 25-30 points most of the time. Although Roethlisberger is up in age, don’t expect Pittsburgh’s offense to slow down at all. It will be interesting to see if the defense continues to hold up without linebacker Ryan Shazier. Pittsburgh did a really good job in the Draft selecting safety Terrell Edmunds right off the bat to help the secondary. Drafting Oklahoma State’s wide receiver James Washington and quarterback Mason Rudolph should prove to be interesting as they have Roethlisberger’s successor and a receiver to take Martavis Bryant’s place. Will Washington and Rudolph continue to succeed together after being reunited?
Baltimore Ravens: 10-6 – The Ravens continue to build like the great Super Bowl team of 1997. The physical and fast defense continues to be the strength of Baltimore and they can win a lot of games even if the offense is inconsistent. Expect Baltimore to win a lot of games but not many blowouts. Rookie tight end Hayden Hurst should give the offense a boost with his outstanding blocking ability.
Cleveland Browns: 7-9 – Everyone will laugh at this but the Browns have too many playmakers to be an ineffective team. Yes there are a lot of new names and that means chemistry will be an issue early on. however, the offense looks downright scary and may be a top 15 unit in terms of points per game. Tyrod Taylor, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon and David Njoku will give defensive coordinators fits. Also, the depth at running back is flat-out insane with Chubb, Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson.
Cincinnati Bengals: 5-11 – This team is taking a fast nosedive. Andy Dalton is just not getting the job done and John Ross’ injury didn’t help matters. It will take Ross some time to get back on his feet. A.J. Green should be back to his usual self. Expect a down year for Cincinnati but the nosedive should end soon.