Toughest division in the AFC, its not even close. I’m not kidding when I say any of these 4 teams can win the division, even the Browns. Obviously the Browns would need a LOT of bleep to go right for them to do that, but they have really improved and look primed to at least make life miserable for the rest of the divison. The Ravens are the champs, the Bengals are knocking on the door as the young and hungry contenders, and then you have the old grizzled vets in Pittsburgh that just will not go away. It’ll be a dog fight.
The defending champs are written off by most, but I’m not going to go down that road. First and foremost, I believe they’re improved. Lewis and Reed’s leadership can’t be underestimated, but what they lose in leadership they gain athletisim in droves! That defense is much improved with Elvis Dummervil, a healthy Terrell Suggs, and watch for Michael Huff. The former 6th overall pick is now in a situation to shine like he has always had the ability to do. I like the offense, although they do have to find reliable 2nd and 3rd WR’s, Torrey Smith can’t do it all by himself. The Bengals also have to prove they can beat the Ravens, they haven’t in a long time. Until then, to quote a famous wrestler….”to be the man, you gotta beat the man!”
And now, the challengers…FIGHTING out of the blue corner! This team is pretty loaded with talent, and while I’m not a huge Andy Dalton fan I do believe they can win a Super Bowl with him under center. I’m guessing the Tyler Eifert pick in the draft was a message to Jermaine Gresham that they aren’t thrilled with him. I think they have to utilize the 2 TE sets like the Pats did with Gronk and Hernandez. Combine that with A.J. Green, and rookie Giovani Bernard out of the back field….it could be a leathal offense if Jay Gruden does it right. And it’s not just the offense, the defense is loaded especially on the d-line. Atkins, Dunlap, Johnson, Hunt, Burfict, Hall, Williams, and although some of those guys are head cases it is nowhere near what the Benglas were. They SHOULD win the division, but for some reason I just don’t think they will.
Is this the season the mighty Steelers take a step back and pick in the top 10 of the draft? Perhaps they finish last in the divison? It could be, but for some reason I don’t see it happening and more than that, everyone is sleeping on this team. That’s scary for the rest of the league. Roethlisberger is in his prime, his recievers aren’t anything special but its a solid group, the o-line is still rebuilding but should be a bit improved, the run game however is a mess right now. If they can tread water with what they have until rookie Le’Veon Bell gets healthy. The defense is aging, and Troy Polamalu can’t be depended on to stay healthy anymore….but it’s the Steelers and you just know they’ll be tough on that side of the ball. On top of this, Mike Tomlin is one of the best coaches in the game. They shouldn’t be good….doesn’t mean they won’t be.
I love the Browns to possibly shock the world this season and get in the playoffs….seriously! I’m not predicting it, I’m just saying that out of all the lower end teams in the league they would be my bet to rise up. If they do finish last, I expect an impressive 6-10 or 7-9 type of season. Weeden isn’t anything special, but Norv Turner is a HELL of an OC and has great success developing QB’s. If Richardson stays healthy he will be a beast…like 12-1500 yard type beast. And this defense….delicious! Barkevious Mingo is my pick for defensive rookie of the year (not much of a stretch I know). Jackson, Haden, Kruger, Ward, Taylor, the talent is there to be one of the best unit’s in the AFC under DC Ray Horton.
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