Monday, August 11, 2008

big american NFL preview: AFC North

The AFC North is going to be pretty interesting, because all of the teams have the potential to put together a great game at any moment. Three of those teams also have the potential to be blown out of the water at any given moment. Still, I think this is the only division that could possibly keep the AFC South from fielding three playoff teams again this year.

The AFC North

4. Cincinnatti - The Bengals have all the talent in the world at the skill spots on offense. They also have a lot of drama surrounding Chad "Faster Than A Horse" Johnson. More importantly, they have no defense. They might put some games together and ruin the season of a team or two, but they're not contenders.

3. Baltimore - Baltimore hasn't changed much from the team that managed to lose to Miami last year. I don't expect Joe Flacco to make a huge splash this season. I do expect Baltimore to run the football a lot, stop the other team from scoring, and play in the most games settled by 7 points or less. Unfortunately for the Ravens, in those games you're only as good as your quarterback. Flacco isn't ready and Kyle Boller won't win that game for you. Expect a lot of heart-breaking losses, Ravens fans.

2. Cleveland - The Browns are going to score a lot of points. A lot. They will score and score often. Derek Anderson has two obscenely talented targets in Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, the O-line is solid enough for Jamal Lewis to have another good year carrying the ball, and they play the defenseless Bengals twice. The defense has been beefed up considerably, too. The only thing keeping them away from winning this division is that they're weak at the cornerback spot, and will probably give up enough long plays to come out on the losing end of a few shootout-style games. The Browns are, however, playoff bound.

1. Pittsburgh - The Steelers are going to be a large task for any team this season. If rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall works out well, he and Willie Parker could be the best one-two punch in the NFL. Easily enough to keep enough opposing defensive players in the box to free up Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes for Ben Rothlisberger (who I'm finally starting to come around on...just a few years after everyone else). The Steelers always feature hard-nosed defense, and they'll need it with their schedule; which includes the Colts, Patriots, Chargers, Cowboys, and the in-division offensive juggernaut Browns. I have just enough faith in this team that I think they'll come out of that slightly ahead of the Browns, but pretty worn out come playoff time.

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