The Sportmeisters NFL Season Preview: AFC North

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The Sportmeisters NFL Season Preview: AFC North
(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

By Derek and Ryan of The Sportmeisters

With the NFL season fast approaching, Sportmeisters Derek and Ryan break out the crystal ball and forsee the future of all 32 NFL teams. Today, Derek and Ryan look at the AFC North, and discuss how they got to their respective decisions. What follows is a transcript of that discussion.

Ryan:

Derek:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: 15-1
  • Baltimore Ravens: 7-9
  • Cincinnati Bengals: 7-9
  • Cleveland Browns: 3-13

Ryan: Derek, it looks like we’ve been drinking the Pittsburgh Steelers kool-aid again.

Derek: With good reason, Ryan. The AFC North was a much closer race then people thought it would be last year. However, this year it won’t be that close.

Ryan: I have it a bit closer, with three teams over .500, but you’re sold on just Pittsburgh to make noise in the North.

Derek: The defending Super Bowl Champion Steelers look to be on easy street this year. They have a few tough games against Tennessee, Chicago, Minnesota, Green Bay, and San Diego, but I think their Monster Defense gives them the edge against all but San Diego.

Ryan: In what is sure to be a first, the only game we agree on Pittsburgh losing is at San Diego, but this team could easily lose a few other games. Their opening game against Tennessee will be tough, but with the home crowd behind them, I can’t see the Steelers losing. Along with that, the rejuvenated Ravens could make a stand or two in a tough physical matchup.

Derek: Baltimore has a much tougher schedule this year and second year QB Joe Flacco and LB Ray Lewis won’t be able to lead them to victory over Pittsburgh, Chicago, Indianapolis, San Diego, New England, Minnesota, Green Bay, and they may even lose to a revitalized Cincinnati.

Ryan: Derek, I’m going to disagree there, because I do think one of the most physical teams in the NFL will pound their ways to victory, much like last year. I see them defeating New England, Minnesota, and Green Bay.

Derek: Their strong Defense will lead them to wins over Cleveland, Kansas City, Denver, Detroit, and Oakland, but that won’t be enough to make the playoffs.

Ryan: That’s where you’re wrong, they’ll make the playoffs, using the successful formula of last year behind the running game and the defense to take a wild card spot.

Derek: Let’s move on to the Hard Knocks team of the summer, the Cincinnati Bengals. With a healthy Carson Palmer and a rejuvenated Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati will have a much better year this year, but it won’t be enough.

Ryan: It really won’t be for them, but I think it’s a victim of the division they are in. However, this team needs to fire Marvin Lewis and start fresh. Keep an eye on Carson Palmer’s injuries, as he still has not been the same since 2006.

Derek: Losses to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay, Chicago, Houston, San Diego, and the Jets will seal their fate outside the playoffs yet again.

Ryan: They’ll take Green Bay, and be close to a wild card slot in the final week, forcing them to defeat the Jets, but it won’t be enough either.

Derek: Finally, the Browns are still the bottom of the barrel, despite Eric Mangini’s overhaul.

Ryan: It takes a lot in year one to make a difference, and using the Bill Belichick mold, he made some huge trades to bring in some of his top contributors from his time at New York, but he’s still a year or two away.

Derek: He’s installed a new Defensive philosophy, but beyond quarterback, this team is still struggling for talent.

Ryan: Luckily, we’re not struggling for opinions on the AFC North.

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