Fearless NFL Predictions: AFC North

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Fearless NFL Predictions: AFC North
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

A team-by-team analysis of the AFC North in the order I believe they will finish. Check back soon for more divisions.

                                                         

               

Baltimore           

The Ravens lost to Pittsburgh three times last year, so they'll be hungrier than ever. They lost some players on defense but the important ones, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Haloti Ngata are still there.

 Joe Flacco enters his second year after a successful but restrained rookie season. We will see if OC Cam Cameron has the confidence in him to open the passing game up to complement a very good rushing attack.

However, they did advance to the AFC championship game last year with a limited passing game so if Flacco lifts his game at all the Ravens will make another run.                                                              

 

Pittsburgh          

A little bit of a post-Super Bowl slump for the champs. Still one of the best teams in the league but Baltimore has the slight edge in the running game.

 They did not make any moves to improve their questionable offensive line. Without improved pass protection Big Ben may not be able to stay healthy all year. The three most brutal games played in the NFL last year were Pittsburgh's three wins over Baltimore, and the Ravens have had all off-season to think about it. On paper Pittsburgh is still the better team, but to quote ESPN's Kenny Mayne, "games are not played on paper; they're played inside TV sets".

                                               

Cleveland                           

It will be Brady Quinn at QB, and he was better than you think during his three starts last year. Remember he played most of his last two starts with a broken finger. However, no running game and no Winslow will hurt him this year.

 Jamal Lewis is clearly finished being a game-breaker so Cleveland is hoping one of their younger backs can break out. The defense should be better with new coach Eric Mangini bringing some starters with him from the Jets but not enough to get them into playoff contention.

                                               

Cincinnati                           

It may be a long year for Carson Palmer and a final year for Marvin Lewis. Laveranues Coles is past his prime and Chad Ochocinco seems to be as well, do not be surprised if Chris Henry replaces one of them in the starting lineup.

Cedric Benson ran the ball well late last year but mostly against poor defensive teams, and his 3.5 yards per carry was not impressive. The one bright spot for Bengal fans was the draft, Cincinnati was able to snag three players considered by many to be first-round talents.

If they can get big-time contributions from Andre Smith, Rey Maualuga, and Michael Johnson they could jump ahead of Cleveland for third place but have no chance to make the playoffs.

 

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