AFC North Preview by Jim Feist
Baltimore Ravens: Very marginal the last few years and have a potential QB problem. Quarterback Joe Flacco has been a subpar performer since winning the Super Bowl a few years ago. Drafting Lamar Jackson will surely put pressure on Joe, if he continues to play like he has the last few years. I think Lamar could be a steal if he gets a chance to show it. You have to get real about this club from what they did last season. The Ravens were 27th in offensive total yards and passing yards. Nothing there will inspire, but they were 9-7 and that is not so bad. In addition, they were 9th in points scored. They added some speed and depth at WR, so if Flacco can deliver it, they could be a quick strike team. Can the OL give Big Joe time he needs? He certainly has the arm to go deep. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will need to be a bit more daring this year.
Cincinnati Bengals: Come on man! Marvin Lewis should have been gone years ago. He and quarterback Andy Dalton are just average at what they do. That’s ok for some but not for the beleaguered fans in Cincinnati. Check this out; the Browns are actually favored to do better this year than the Bengals. That says a lot and I should quit there when it comes to discussing this team. The Bengals have endured back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2007-08, so it’s fair that experts and oddsmakers alike aren’t high on this team entering 2018.
Cleveland Browns: Winless it seems forever. Can this team ever get things turned around and become a team that can be respectable? This club was a horrible -28 on turnovers last year. They were winless, 0-16 for 2017 and have won just a single game the last two seasons combined. Having said all that, I am very high on the Browns this year. They have added a ton of talent in the offseason and if the chemistry develops, we could be seeing a last to first scenario along the lines of what the Jags did last season. The entire AFC North can be had with a few bounces going their way. QB Tyrod Taylor is not Aaron Rodgers but he will add stability behind center. Moreover, they did draft highly touted quarterback Baker Mayfield who has shown potential in the OTA’s. Things could get interesting and somewhat exciting with all the youth on this team and new OC Todd Haley calling the plays. Another big addition is DC Greg Williams who loves to blitz. This could be a very exciting team to watch and bet on. The sharps already have bet the over and under win total up to 6 from an opening line of 4.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Yes, they are favored to win the division and potentially take down the Patriots who should rule the East. I can’t argue with any of that thinking, but there is that injury bug that the Steelers have had to deal with in the past. Quarterback “Big” Ben Roethlisberger is not getting any younger (36 years old) and also the Steelers have that ugly tendency of playing down to their competition. Head coach Mike Tomlin gets his team up to play the big boys but when it comes to motivating them against the also rans, he falls short and so does the team. At time the Steelers are an upset looking for a place to happen. I blame this on the head coach. Some think he ranks up there due to his overall win/loss record but I look deeper, so I don’t agree. I agree the Steelers should be favored to win the division, but I wouldn’t be shocked if someone overtakes them this year. And don’t forget all the drama surrounding Antonio Brown and Leveon Bell.