AFC North Predictions
Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
The Ravens had quite a team in 2009 — good enough to lay a whoopin’ on the Patriots in the playoffs that New England fans are still smarting from. The Ravens didn’t rest on their laurels, adding Anquan Boldin and a bevy of young talent through the draft. Terrence Cody and Sergio Kindle join an already imposing defense, while Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson provide some safe targets for Joe Flacco. Don’t sleep on the blackbirds in 2010.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
Chad Ochocinco’s persona is a good proxy for the Bengals performance – enigmatic. The tools and material are all there to build a championship level team, but the walls keep getting knocked down by egos, arrests, and injuries. The offense, once the leader of this team, will have to play catchup in 2010. The 6th ranked defense added a few more youngsters, with athletes like Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Ghee joining the team. Jermaine Gresham will need to show that he is recovered from his knee injury early, so that Carson Palmer can trust him in tight situations. If Carson can remember the blueprints to a great offense, the 9-7 record could easily turn into a 12-win season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-10)
It’s not just the Ben Roethlisberger debacle. Their depth at tackle is razor thin after an injury to Willie Colon. Signing Flozell Adams or moving 1st round pick Maurkice Pouncey are truly deals with the devil. After jettisoning Santonio Holmes, the receiving corps is shaky and a bit unproven after Hines Ward. Emmanuel Sanders should help in the long run, but the Steelers offense is going to be in trouble. Their defense is still impressive, but any injury to Troy Polamalu will hurt this team – which lacks a good replacement at safety. Thaddeus Gibson and Jason Worilds are two more toys to apply pressure to the quarterback, which might be the best way for the Steelers to score points this year.
Cleveland Browns (5-11)
The Browns need a lot more good football players in order to compete in this division, starting with their quarterback. Joe Haden, Colt McCoy, and others show promise to join Josh Cribbs as impact players, but they are a year or two away. If Mike Holmgren has a plan, I hope it doesn’t involve the playoffs in 2010.