AFC North Division Preview 2018

Last Season:

Pittsburgh Steelers: 13-3

Baltimore Ravens: 9-7

Cincinnati Bengals: 7-9

Cleveland Browns: 0-16

2018 Season Outlook:

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are expecting another prominent regular season as their main pieces remain intact. Although contract disputes with Le’Veon Bell may have an effect on the locker room,  “The Three B’s”, along with key pieces like JuJu-Smith Schuster and Jesse James, are poised to continue their phenomenal offensive production. I would not be surprised if they repeated their top ten finishes in yards per game and points per game by the end of this season, which should alone be enough to obtain a top two seed in the AFC. On the other hand, their defense is a little shaky considering the devastating loss of Ryan Shazier, the anchor of their linebacking core, last season. However, the Steelers have succeeded in previous years with an average defense so don’t expect much to change this year.

Baltimore Ravens: While offense defines the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defensive side of the ball is what is going to win Baltimore games this year. The Ravens have a ton of talent in all three levels of the defense including the likes of C.J. Mosley, Jimmy Smith, and Terrell Suggs, which should have them grinding out 13-7 or 10-7 victories. Nevertheless, don’t expect the Ravens to fare well against some of the offensively elite teams they face on their schedule including Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and the LA Chargers. In addition, the decreasing play from Joe Flacco in the last couple years, evident in a below average 80.4 passer rating last season, should create conflict in the organization on if they should start rookie Lamar Jackson. I can smell a little dysfunction here but considering their great defense and fairly easy schedule, I’ll still put them at second in the division.

Cleveland Browns: Yes, the Browns are not going to be last in the division this year. Although I’m not completely sold on Baker Mayfield and I think their could be some potential volatility in the locker room, the Browns improved tremendously from last year. Their young offensive and defensive talent combined with Hue Jackson’s proven coaching ability could bring them some success in a relatively weak division. Furthermore, perimeter threats like Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry should manifest in a fairly explosive offense that is second only to Pittsburgh as the best offensive group in the AFC North. I like, not love, the Browns but I think their talent should be enough to earn six more wins than last year, a monumentally impressive feat.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are a team that doesn’t seem to have an identity, which is an underrated component required in building a great organization. Sure they have some young talented running backs and receivers, but nothing really pops off the page to me. Moreover, Andy Dalton is a “C” quarterback in a division that demands at least a “B-” ,add to that a schedule filled with the turnover inducing defenses, and the Bengals could be in store for a world of trouble.

2018 Predicted Standings:

Pittsburgh Steelers: 12-4

Baltimore Ravens: 9-7

Cleveland Browns: 6-10

Cincinnati Bengals: 5-11