This is the 2016 NFL Season Preview of the AFC North. In a division that seems to be competitive every year, the Steelers have won 21 times of the 49 division titles. This division is always close because it has the best divisional rivalries in the AFC. Bengals-Browns fight for Ohio, Ravens-Steelers is always ugly, and Bengals-Steelers is probably the arguably the ugliest, nastiest rivalry in the league right now. With that said, let’s get to the previews for the upcoming season.
The entire Ravens team seemed to get hurt last year. Steve Smith started to show his age; QB Joe Flacco was injured in the middle of the year, and even RB Justin Forsett was out. That’s not even counting the numerous injuries that they had on the defensive side of the ball. All in all the Ravens are glad last year is over, and they hope to get back to being a contender. They still have most of the pieces of when they made the playoff in 2014. Healthy will be their biggest question.
Because of everyone returning, most people are picking the Ravens as 1 of the bounce back teams of 2016. However, I see more issues than are being raised. They still have a lack of talent at WR. Forsett is not the biggest guy, and they don’t have much depth at RB. They have a team that with everyone healthy they can compete, but it’s very hard to count on players that are over 30 to stay healthy all year long. Benjamin Watson was already hurt from a torn Achilles last night. Is this a sign of things to come?
Last Year Record 5-11
Vegas Win Prediction 8
My Prediction 5-11
The Bengals always seem to find a way to screw themselves. Last year we remembered the nastiness of the Pittsburgh game and it cost them dearly in the end as multiple personal fouls allowed the Steelers to steal that playoff game in Cincinnati. If the Bengals are going actually to progress deeper in the playoffs, they need to control their emotions better. That falls on the head of their Head Coach Marvin Lewis.
Cincy still has a top 5 defensive unit and standout players like AJ Green on the offensive side of the ball. However, they lost Mohamed Sanu to Atlanta and Marvin Jones to Detroit. So they are a little thin at wideout. Because of this, they will likely go back to their power running scheme that allowed their two talented RBs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to be featured on offense.
Last Year Record 12-4
Vegas Win Prediction 9.5
My Prediction 9-7
This is going to be an extremely interesting year for the Browns. The team that is the currently laughing stock of the league completely overhauled the entire franchise. They have gone to a more analytical approach, and they have decided to take chances on younger players that have a high amount of talent. Their offense, for the 1st time in God, knows how long, may be watchable. With Robert Griffin II at QB and WRs like Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, and Terrell Pryor, the Browns have the makings of a bright offensive future.
On the other side of the ball, the Browns still need a lot of help. They don’t seem to have an identity. They have the makings of an up and coming defense with young players like Joe Haden, Justin Gilbert, and Danny Shelton, but they need to show it on the field. If they can put it together, they will blow my prediction for them out the water. But 1st, they have to show and prove.
Last Year Record 3-13
Vegas Win Prediction 4.5
My Prediction 3-13
If you follow me on Twitter, you are going to hear me say this a lot. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the best team in the AFC and a top 5 team in the NFL. If you look at the teams that have represented the AFC in the Superbowl for the last 13 years, they have been led by 4 QBs, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, and Ben Roethlisberger. With Peyton retired, Flacco on an average team, and the Pats having their issues, the way is clear for Big Ben to get to Superbowl 51.
Despite Martavis Bryant being suspended for the year, the Steelers still have more than enough firepower, led by the best WR in the sport, Antonio Brown. The only question is what plagued them last year, keeping Big Ben healthy. It would also help if RB Le’Veon Bell could stop getting suspended. The defense is young but has a lot of talent and is a good mix of vets and young guys. Their LB group is the best they’ve had in a while. This team is ready to make that next step.
Last Year Record 10-6
Vegas Win Prediction 10.5
My Prediction 13-3
Can the Baltimore Ravens get back to their 2014 form that led them to be a play or 2 from the AFC championship game? Are the Bengals finally going to mature enough to stop self-imploding? Will the Browns start to turn the corner as to being a legitimate franchise? Will the Steelers finally make it back to the Superbowl that they probably should have gotten to last year? All of these questions will be answered during the 2016 NFL Season.