This Preview of AFC North was written for CBHSports.blogspot.com, a sports blog written by Chris Hirsch. Chris asked me to be a question author on his blog and write this preview. The article along with Chris's introduction and predictions can be read CBHSportshttp://cbhsports.blogspot.com/2009/08/2009-nfl-previews-afc-north.htmld.
2008 Record: 12-4, NFL Champions
Coach: Mike Tomlin. (3rd year Pittsburgh, 22-10 career)
Key Additions: DE Evander “Ziggy” Hood, WR Shaun McDonald, Keiwan Ratliff
Key Losses: WR Nate Washington, CB Bryant McFadden, ILB Larry Foote,
QB Byron Leftwich
2009 Outlook: The Pittsburgh Steelers finished 2008 at the pinnacle of their profession. They had a dominating defense and a deceptively effective offense. A status quo team never repeats so the question for 2009 is can they be better. Last year’s defense was almost perfect and while the personal has only seen two changes, the loss of ILB Larry Foote could make the run defense a little more vulnerable. The offense and special teams should be better than last year, however, and that could be enough to bring a seventh shiny football on a stick to the City of Champions.
2008 Record: 11-5
Coach: Jim Harbaugh (2nd year Baltimore, 11-5 career)
Key Additions: C Matt Birk, RT Michael Oher, TE L.J. Smith
Key Losses: Def. Cord. Rex Ryan, OLB Bart Scott, FS Jim Leonhard, Chris McAllister
2009 Outlook: The Ravens are looking to boost themselves from dangerous sleeper to scary contender in Quarterback Joe Flacco’s second year. During the offseason the Ravens defense was ransacked by the New York jets who took two starters and their defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan. The Ravens are aging in multiple areas and now have lost two of their best younger players but they will still have one of the leagues top defensive units. Baltimore should be improved on offense, however, with Flacco a year more comfortable, Ray Rice giving more help in the run game, and Matt Birk and Michael Oher improving the front line.
2008 Record: 4-10-1
Coach: Marvin Lewis (6th year Cincinatti, 46-50-1)
Key Additions: WR Lavernues Coles, SS Roy Williams, DT Tank Johnson, OT Andre Smith
Key Losses: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh,
2009 Outlook: The Bengals are a confusing team this year. They were fairly awful last season but Carson Palmer’s seemingly endless return from injury has made the Bengals into a potential sleeper team. While predictions of Cincinnati stunning both the Ravens and the Steelers and making the playoffs are wildly exaggerated, the team should be significantly better with a few additions and Palmer back behind center. Coles will be an adequate replacement at receiver and while both players are overrated Roy Williams and Tank Johnson will help Cincy’s defense. Just like every year under Marvin Lewis the Bengals will be good if the ego’s and personalities on the team remain in check. If not they will disappoint yet again.
2008 Record: 3-13
Coach: Eric Mangini (1st year Cleveland, 23-25 career)
Key Additions: ILB Eric Barton, RG Floyd Womack, WR Mike Furrey
Key Loses: TE Kellen Winslow Jr., WR Donte Stallworth (1 year suspension), WR Joe Jurevicius
2009 Outlook: Last year the Browns, like they have been most seasons, were a disaster. Their run defense was relatively nonexistent last year nor was their decision on a starting QB. The Browns problems this season begins, but does certainly not end, at finding a solidified starting play caller. They need to figure out who the QB will throw to. With both Winslow and Stallworth gone and Braylon Edwards consistent inconsistency the Brown’s passing game is in dire straights. Despite a new, and probably better Coach and a smarter approach to the 2009 draft the Browns are still a team of woeful possibilities.