Friday, September 2, 2011

AFC North Preview

Pittsburgh Steelers, 1st Place

Offensive Players: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Mike Wallace, WR Heinz Ward, C Maurkice Pouncey, T Jonathan Scott

Defensive Players: LB LaMarr Woodley, LB James Farrior, LB Lawrence Timmons, LB James Harrison, CB Bryant McFadden, S Troy Polamalu

The Steelers are becoming like the Yankees of the NFL, there going to be there every year, it's just a matter of will they win the whole thing or not. This year, they have as good a shot as anyone I think, with a hungry, healthy Big Ben ready to go off for 4500 yards with his never ending weapons (now Antonio Brown is standing out too). They have as good a workhourse RB as there is in the game, even though he won't catch passes, Mendenhall will hold onto the ball and pound forward for consistent yardage. They have a great defense, solid lines on both sides and a healthy secondary. Look out AFC!
Record: 14-2


Baltimore Ravens, 2nd Place *(Wild Card)*

Offense: QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, WR Anquan Boldin, T Michael Oher
Defense: NT Haloti Ngata, LB Ray Lewis, LB Terrell Suggs, CB Dominque Foxworth, CB Jimmy Smith (R), S Ed Reed

The Ravens again have a stout defense, but like the Steelers, they're starting to age a bit on that side of the ball. Ngata is a brilliant DT and Lewis and Suggs can still move around well and hit you hard. I expect a huge year out of Suggs. Offensively, this team is driven by Rice and Flacco, and Rice is primed for a huge year. A 2000 total yard season is just about what's in store for Rice if all things go well (I'm hoping they are for my fantasy teams' sake). The problem with the offense right now is that Flacco's having a hard time learning the new look receiving corps minus two of his favorite targets in Todd Heap and Derrick Mason.
Record: 10-6


Cincinatti Bengals, 3rd Place

Offense: QB Andy Dalton, RB Cedric Benson, WR A.J. Green, TE Jermaine Gresham, T Andre Smith

Defense: DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Manny Lawson, LB Ray Maualuga, CB Nate Clements, CB Leon Hall

This is were a lot of people have the Browns finishing, but even with rookie Andy Dalton and a sketch O-Line, I really like Green and Gresham and think Benson will be running for a big contract. Defensively, they have some very nice pieces, though they're still a work in progress. Dunlap is coming off a 10-sack season and Lawson and Clements are each hoping on improving on below-par years with San Francisco. I think this team could surprise a bit though for sure.
Record: 5-11


Cleveland Browns, 4th Place

Offense: QB Colt McCoy, RB Peyton Hillis, TE Kellen Winslow, LT Joe Thomas

Defense: LB D'Qwell Jackson, DT Ahtyba Rubin, S T.J. Ward, CB Joe Haden (R), CB Sheldon Brown

I like the Browns young secondary, and there's no questioning their running game led by the bulldozing Peyton Hillis. My questions with this team lie squarely on their passing attach, which I don't believe they have. I've yet to be impressed by Colt McCoy, granted he's still got a year or 2 before I consider him a bust. He'll be OK and won't really lose a game for you, but he's not a guy who's going to lead a team deep into the playoffs. He doesn't have many receiving options either, outside of Winslow. Masaquoi is labeled the #1 wideout, but has been ridiculously inconsistent, and Brian Robiskie has never lived up to his hype coming out of Ohio State. If McCoy does catch fire, and one of their wideouts steps up to support Winslow and Hillis, they'll be looking a lot better.
Record: 4-12

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