Thursday, August 26, 2010

NFL Predictions: AFC North

The AFC North could be one of the most competitive divisions in football this season. There are plenty of offseason stories to talk about - free agent signings, draft picks, and - of course - sexual assault charges.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers - My bold pick of the season: the Pittsburgh Steelers finish dead last in their division. The team had a miserable spring/summer, losing various players for stupid reasons. Santonio Holmes got sent to New York after a run-in with the law. And the Roethlisberger suspension will hurt more than people think. Sure, Leftwich might win a game or two, but I expect Big Ben to be worse than post-scandal Tiger Woods when he returns. Having to play games against New Orleans, New England, and the New York Jets certainly doesn't help. The Steelers go 6-10 this year.

3. Cleveland Browns - The Cleveland Browns won't be winning any titles this year, but at least they won't finish last in their division (again). The Browns made a great move by signing Jake Delhomme. Sure, he's past his prime, but even if the veteran QB only throws 1 TD a game, it's still an upgrade from previous years. Jerome Harrison is poised for a breakout season, after totaling 709 yards and 7 TDs in the last 5 weeks of 2009, and Josh Cribbs is always a threat to take one to the house. There are still a lot of holes on defense, although Joe Haden will make an impact.

2. Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals won the division last year by posting and impressive 6-0 record in AFC North play. In the playoffs, however, the team got bounced after a lackluster first round performance against the Jets. Cincinnati is once again a threat to win the North. They added firepower at WR with Terrell Owens and (don't forget) Antonio Bryant. Cedric Benson will post good numbers, though I'm not sure they'll be quite as impressive as those from last year. It's a pick 'em between the Bengals and Ravens.

1. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens have an incredible running game, finishing 2009 at 5th in the NFL in rush yards per game (but with fewer attempts than any other team in the top 5). Joe Flacco gets better every year, and it's the first time in his career that he won't be throwing exclusively to wideouts who are AARP eligible. Anquan Boldin will add some firepower to the offense a might open up the running game as well. Look for the Ravens to win this division at home week 17 vs. Cincinnati.

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