AFC North Preview
It’s a division that’s used to a winner and three losers. We all know the American Football Conference North winner but the losers are going to be a shock to some of us this year. It’s almost the same as the AFC East except the other teams aren’t really making changes to beat the Patriots.
Last place: The Cincinnati Bengals.
The last time the Bengals won a playoff game was in 1990. Since 2005, the Bengals have placed first in the AFC North four times. The last time they placed first was in 2015.
They lost veteran running back Jeremy Hill who lost his job to Joe Mixon last year. The main goal the Bengals needed to focus on was the offensive line. They added Cordy Gleen and draftee Billy Price to help open the gap for the offensive line. AJ Green will once again be a top three receiver in the National Football League. Andy Dalton, aka Big Red, is a pretty solid quarterback in the NFL with the help of the offensive line. Dalton could finally help the Bengals overcome and get a playoff win.
Vontaze Burfict leads the pack of the dirtiest players in the NFL for the Bengals defense. He also has a four-game suspension in 2018 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The addition of Preston Brown will help the void of Burfict. The Bengals have a solid front on the defense with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. The loss of Adam Jones will hurt the secondary which is where the defense will struggle.
Third place team: The Baltimore Ravens.
I know what you’re thinking, why aren’t they number two. Well, you’ll get your reason why. Not much improvement with this team besides adding depth to the receiver position. Oh yeah, and Robert Griffin III, can’t forget ole RG3. Signs are showing that Lamar Jackson could potentially give Joe Flacco a run for his money. Flacco will start off the year as the starter, but could Jackson be the starter by the end of the year? I personally couldn’t care less because that’s the only exciting thing this team has to offer me. They added three receivers in the offseason with Micheal Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead.
CJ Mosley is a good linebacker but the linebacking group could be solidified with another addition of a solid player. Players like Eric Weddle, Marlon Humphrey, Tony Jefferson and Jimmy Smith could result in a very strong secondary. The rest of the defense will be the downfall on that will result in a third-place finish.
Second place: The Cleveland Browns.
The team that could be the shocker of the year. Baker Mayfield is receiving all the hype but I wouldn’t rule Tyrod Taylor out. Whoever will be the quarterback, they will definitely have some weapons to play with. Receiver Jarvis Landry joins the elite Josh Gordon that could easily be the best tandem in the NFL. The addition of Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb at the running back will be a huge improvement. This offense will be fire this season. The only question mark is whose going to be the quarterback.
The defense has significantly gotten better but you can only get better when you’re last in the league for awhile. Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, and Denzel Ward, who are the most recent highly sought out draft picks, will man the defense.
I wouldn’t say this team is playoff eligible just yet, but they are looking like a promising 5-7 win team this year. That’s really something to be excited about if you’re a Dawg fan.
First place: None other than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have won the conference the past two years and can you blame them? They have one of the best offenses in the NFL, arguably the best running back in LeVeon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown in the game with a top-five quarterback.
The defense added safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker Jon Bostic to help out. The defense was a struggle last year so they are testing all options on that side of the ball. The Steelers lead the NFL in sacks last year with 56. Cam Heyward had 12 alone. They finished fifth in the league while only allowing 306.9 yards per game.
Once again, we all know the Steelers will win the AFC North. The Browns have started a comeback in the division and give it few years and they could win it.