Can the AFC North and the East be any more balanced with the top 4 contenders for the Super Bowl battling it out? For now, let’s just look at the AFC North and get a taste for the eventual winner of the division.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting up in years and long in the tooth. The defense is now averaging around 32 years of age and the front office has decided against signing All World safety Troy Palamalu to a new contract. This should mean Palamalu will be motivated to carry the Steelers defense. Big Ben is back for another season and a chance at retribution at losing last year in the final game. Last year the Steelers were better on the road than at home, and they had the best record against their division. They will need more home wins than 5 to carry the title this year.
- Baltimore is a perennial contender to the Steelers. However this year they have brought in more firepower offensively for quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco is fast becoming one of the best and silent quarterbacks in the league. Now with Lee Evans from Buffalo, the Ravens for the first time should have an offense that can spread the field. This will help against the Steelers. Ray Lewis is the heart and soul of the defensive group, with Ed Reed dominates from the safety position. It should be a tough race as always, but how Baltimore does on the road will reveal how they finish this season.
- It’s no secret the Cleveland Browns should be better on the field. Now whether that turns into more wins is another story. Colt McCoy, the second year quarterback out of Texas, is expected to carry the load for this team. A new coach in Pat Shurmer and a new offensive system should help. The Browns will not only implement the “West Coast” offense, but they will also use a 4-3 defense for the first time since their return in 1999. Dick Jauron will handle the defensive coordinator duties. Last year the Browns were 5-11 overall and finished third in the division. Contending for the title is out of the question for now, there just isn’t enough talent on the depth chart. However look for the Browns to go 7-9 and play entertaining football.
- Cincinnati is another story. How they have kept Coach Marvin Lewis for so long is a mystery. He almost left last season, but owner and General Manager Mike Brown kept him and has left quarterback Carson Palmer drifting in the wind. Will Palmer come back or will Brown let him sit out the season it’s anyone’s guess. Cedric Benson is out of Jail and ready to carry the load of the offense for the Bengals. Andy Dalton is taking over the quarterbacking duties while their number one draft pick AJ Green is ready to become a star receiver in the NFL. The Bengals are rebuilding and looking at the future. This year the future says last place and a 4-12 record. However next year could be another story.