In the 1996 movie, Beautiful Girls, Actor Timothy Hutton (who plays Willie Conway) describes his girlfriend when his long time high school friend, ask about her. The Conversation is as follows:
Michael Morris: “Rate her looks, 1-10?”
Willie Conway: “Seven”
Michael Morris “Rate her body?”
Willie Conway: “Seven”
Michael Morris: “Rate her personality?”
Willie Conway: “Seven”
The point here is that Conway’s girlfriend is not great, but overall, she is very good. That is how I feel about the AFC North over the past 10 years. The Steelers and Ravens have been very good, appearing in 3 Super Bowls since 2008 and winning two. On a scale of 1-10 over the past decade, I give this division a 7.
AFC North Preview and Prediction:
Pittsburgh Steelers (Last season’s record, 11-5) … Projected Finish, 11-5.
The Steelers could be the only team in the NFL that have a Top 5 quarterback, running back and wide receiver. In 2016, Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 3,800 yards, completed 64% of his passes and had 29 touchdowns. The man they call “Big Ben” is on the tail end of his career but is still a clutch performer in the 4th quarter and post-season. WR, Antonio Brown continues to be the best in the NFL. Over the past four seasons, Brown has 481 catches, 6,315 yards and 43 touchdowns. That collective sigh of relief you heard coming out of Pittsburgh last week was running back Le’Veon Bell retuning to camp. He will be ready for Game 1. Last year Bell rushed for over 1,200 yards and caught 75 passes out of the backfield. Martavis Bryant should be very productive. In 21 career games he has 76 catches, and 15 total touchdowns. If he can stay on the field, he could be the best #2 WR in the NFL.
On defense, this is not an elite unit but they can cause havoc. Last season. they were 2-4 when allowing more than 100 yards per game. The Steelers were 9th in the NFL with 38 sacks on the season. If they can improve their defense, this team could go to another AFC Championship.
Steelers fans tend to attack head coach Mike Tomlin. In 10 years, he has made the playoffs 7 times and has been to two Super Bowls, winning 1.
Cincinnati Bengals (Last Season’s record 6-9-1) … Projected finish, 9-7.
The Bengals ownerships continues to reward mediocrity. Head coach Marvin Lewis has a record of 118-103-3 in Cincinnati. He is 0-7 in the playoffs. The Bengals ownership don’t care about winning, if they did, Lewis would have been fired years ago.
The Bengals offense will focus around “The Red Riffle,” Quarterback Andy Dalton. In 2016 Dalton threw for over 4,200 yards had 18 touchdowns 8 interceptions and completed 64.7% of his passes. But, in the playoffs, the Former TCU standout, is 0-4, with 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions. When the competition gets better, he gets worse. WR, A.J. Green is about as solid as they come. In only 10 games last season he had 66 receptions over 900 yards and 4 touchdowns. When healthy he can easily dominate a quarter, half or game. It was the first time in 5 years he did not break 1000 yards in receiving. The Running back position will be done by committee. Jeremy Hill had 839 yards and 9 touchdowns. Giovani Bernard and rookie Joe Mixon should see some playing time as well. In 4 years as the Bengals TE, Tyler Eifert has 20 touchdowns. If he can stay healthy he can add another dimension to this offense.
The Cincy Defense should be their strength. The Bengals have a ton of 1st round picks on the defensive side of the ball including everyone in their secondary. In 56 games Linebacker Vontaze Burfict has 333 tackles. If he can mature and not take the emotional penalty, he can be this teams leader.
The bottom line with the Bengals… they may be good enough to make the playoffs but if they do, it will be” one and done” like always.
Baltimore Ravens (Last season’s record, 8-8) … Projected finish, 7-9.
After winning the Super Bowl in 2012 the Ravens have been an average team and their record shows it.
Joe Flacco continues to be one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the NFL. There are times where he looks like a top 5 play caller and times where he looks out of sync. Over the past 2 seasons, Flacco has a record of 11-15 with 34 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. Terrance West will be the featured back. He was 11th in yards per rush after first contact so he is tough to bring down. But, he only rushed for 775 yards. Jeremy Maclin comes over from the Kansas City Chiefs and Mike Wallace should be a decent WR duo. The Bottom line is there is no one on this offense who scares any defensive coordinators. The Ravens offensive line has a ton of question marks as well. Look for a ton of “three and outs this season.
Baltimore’s defense should be this team’s identity. They acquired Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr in free agency which will help their secondary tremendously. C.J. Mosely had 92 tackles last season and at 6’1 340lbs, Brandon Williams is an absolute load to move off the defensive line.
The only way this team makes the playoffs, is if Flacco has an MVP like season… I don’t see that happening.
Cleveland Browns (Last season’s record 1-15) … 2017 projection, 3-13.
The Browns haven’t had a winning season since they went 10-6 in 2007. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, is the projected starter. The Rookie out of Notre Dame should get plenty of playing time this season. Isaiah Crowell rushed for over 900 yards last season, caught 40 balls out of the backfield and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. In his first full season as a wide receiver, Terrelle Pryor had over 1000 yards and the Browns let him leave for Washington. Pryor was a former quarterback for Ohio State. Why would they let him leave when he has his roots their and fans were just starting to see his potential? The Browns brought in veteran Kenny Britt and he should be a good mentor for 2nd year wide out Corey Coleman. In his last year at Baylor, Coleman had 20 touchdown catches.
On Defense, veteran coach, Greg Williams be the defensive coordinator. Myles Garrett was the number overall pick in last year’s draft. The defensive end will miss a few weeks with a high ankle sprain. I expect the 25th overall pick, Jabrill Peppers to be a playmaker in the secondary. This Browns defense has some talent and they are young at a few positions but the stench of losing remains with this team. I can’t see them winning more than 3-4 games
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