Bengals' Best Shot at Playoffs: Move to AFC West (AFC North Preview)

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Bengals' Best Shot at Playoffs: Move to AFC West (AFC North Preview)
Here’s the cold hard truth football fans; the AFC North is the toughest division in football. If you need to, grab a glass of water and take a second to swallow that last statement.

After last year’s AFC Championship game was over, I had to ice both my knees, down a bottle of Advil, and get a kidney removed… and I only watched the game. Who knows how Ray Lewis or Ben Roethlisberger felt afterwards.

Year in and year out, the North lays the proverbial smack down on the rest of the NFL. Just think about it.

The Steelers defense has more hits than Pete Rose. Ray Lewis has been killing people (both on and off the field) for the better part of a decade. The Bengals' offense has been virtually unstoppable (at least when Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t running it) and the Browns, well they’re like a cute three-legged puppy that you kind of hope someone will put to sleep.

As hard as it is to believe, there’s actually been parity in the division over the last five years. As a matter of fact, three different teams have won it since 2005. That makes predictions almost impossible.

If I was writing about the AFC West, it would take me 23 words and two paragraphs. Chargers, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders; there I’m already done.

For the last three years, the West has been the football equivalent of Enron. It’s getting to the point where the winning team should just get a DVD player and season three of MacGyver instead of a playoff berth.

That being said, let’s stop making fun of the West and start looking at the 2009 AFC North. I’ll list the team, their predicted record and the percentage chance that they make the playoffs.  

Pittsburgh Steelers, (12-4), 88 Percent

Last year, the Steelers won the Super Bowl with the hardest schedule in football. This year they get to play the Lions. That’s like telling Chuck Liddell: “Hey Chuck, remember last year when we put you in a cage match with Anderson Silva and a 1,000 pound black bear and somehow you managed to pin both of them? Tough I know, well this year we’re thinking about having you wrestle Screech Powers and a house cat.”

Trust me, the Steelers are laughing at their schedule and that’s mainly because it only contains six games against playoff teams, four of which are at home.

Besides stealing WR Shaun McDonald from the Lions, this will virtually be the same Super Bowl winning cast of characters that you saw last season.

Cincinnati Bengals, (10-6), 61 percent

The Bengals offseason has been like a four-year-old’s birthday party. It’s as if they just sent out invitations to every free agent alive that said something like: “Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer our quarterback, please come play for us.”

Apparently this ploy worked because Tank Johnson, J.T. O’Sullivan, Laveranues Coles, and Roy Williams all showed up bearing gifts.

Johnson brought the gift of being the baddest man alive. O’Sullivan isn’t exactly an upgrade at the backup quarterback position. If you don't believe me, consider this: the man lost his starting job in San Francisco to Shaun Hill, that's not exactly something you want on your resume.

Let me put O’Sullivan’s San Francisco situation in perspective; that would be like your boss coming into your office and saying: “Mike, we’re firing you and not only are we firing you, but we’re replacing you with a chipmunk. Mainly it’s because he’s cheaper, but some of the higher ups actually do think he does a better job.”

Anyway, Coles is here to replace Housh and Roy Williams is here to show the defensive vets how to make a horse collar tackle without being flagged for it.

This season has success written all over it. Anything less than eight wins means it’s time for Marvin Lewis to move on. Oh, and by the way, if Carson Palmer gets injured the Bengals playoff percentage falls to -3.1 percent.

Baltimore Ravens, (8-8), 50 percent

The problem with the Ravens is that every time a new season starts, they get one year older. Father time says this defense only has one or two more good years in them.

If you stay up late at night watching old episodes of M*A*S*H, then you know what Baltimore’s sideline was like last year.

Ed Reed, Fabian Washington, and Samari Rolle all spent time nursing injuries to some part of their body. You could also throw in CB Chris McAlister and LB Terrell Suggs.

Actually, now that I think about it, it would probably save some space if I just named defensive people who didn’t get injured last year.

Offensively, it doesn’t look any better for Baltimore. NFL quarterbacks tend to struggle in their sophomore seasons for one reason; opposing defensive coordinators adjust to them.

Joe Flacco should be the last person picked in every fantasy draft this year, he’s going to fail, trust me. He’ll be handing the ball off to Willis McGahee 40 times a game and when he does throw it, everyone in the front row should take cover. That’s right Ravens fans, you’re topping out at 8-8.

Cleveland Browns, (6-10), 31 percent

The only thing that you need to know about the Browns is... actually, nothing. They signed WR’s Mike Furrey and David Patten which would have been good moves if Brady Quinn didn’t hit his prime his junior year at Notre Dame.

The NFL obviously has some sick sadistic obsession with Cleveland because, really, there is no other way to explain their two prime-time games.

Let’s just put it this way; the Browns would be 3-13 material if the AFC North wasn’t matched up with the NFC North and AFC West.

Browns fans, I’ll save you the suspense of the 2009 season and go ahead and tell you who you’re going to beat this year; Lions, Packers, Chiefs, Raiders, Broncos, and the Ravens once. There, that was easy.

As the New England Patriots proved last year, double digit wins doesn’t always mean playoffs.

However, I implore Bengals fans to buy playoff ticket vouchers now, forget paying rent this month—I’ll be snatching up about 17 of those bad boys.

Ladies and Gentleman, you’re 2009 AFC North.

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