AFC North: Will The Super Bowl Champions Defend Their Title?
Last year, the AFC North sent two teams to the playoffs. They sent those same two teams to the AFC Championship game to play each other for the third time in a season.
Will the Steelers defend their title or suffer the Super Bowl hangover? Here are the predictions for the AFC North.
4. Cleveland Browns: Let's face it, the Cleveland Browns are going nowhere fast. They have not even named a starting quarterback and they are only days away from kickoff.
The Browns tried to help themselves in the offseason by picking up Donte Stallworth, only to have him suspended for the season. They still have wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Joshua Cribbs.
Without a quarterback, good wide receivers do not mean much. As for their running back, Jamal Lewis can still play; however, he is getting old. One too many hits could knock him out for a few games.
As for their defense, the Browns finished 26th overall last season. The 3-4 defense has a decent line with Shaun Rogers Kenyon Coleman, and Robaire Smith.
As for their secondary, the Browns have cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald. The safeties Abram Elam and Brodney Pool are not household names.
This whole defense still has a few holes. The Browns will eventually improve, but this year is not their year.
As for their schedule, the Browns travel to Denver, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, and Kansas City. This is the easy part of their schedule. They also host Minnesota, Green Bay, San Diego, Oakland, and Jacksonville.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer is healthy this year and has high hopes for his team. Signing Leaveraneus Coles to replace TJ Houshmanzadeh was a good off-season pickup. He will join Chad Ochocinco.
As for the backfield, the Bengals re-signed Cedric Benson. He is a big, bruising running back that can have success. Unfortunately, the Bengals were 32nd in overall offense last year. Look for them to improve, but still not end up on top of the division.
The Bengals defense was the highlight of their team, finishing 12th last season. The linebacking core of Dhani Jones, Rashad Jeantry, and Keith Rivers all return from last year.
The passing defense is anchored by cornerbacks Leon Hall and Johnathon Joseph. Joining them is strong safety Roy Williams.
The Bengals will head on the road to Green Bay, Oakland, Minnesota, San Diego, and the New York Jets. Three of those games will give the Bengals trouble.
The Bengals will host Denver, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, and Kansas City. This will bode better for them, but still give the Bengals some trouble.
2. Baltimore Ravens: The Baltimore Ravens return Joe Flacco. With a year of experience under his belt, Flacco will have another good season. Flacco will have the help of running backs Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.
The Ravens had the 18th overall offense last year. Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason have good hands and will support Flacco as well as last season.
The Ravens are more well-known for their defense, who finished in second place last season. Re-signing Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis was big for their defense as these two anchor the defense.
Anchoring the secondary is free safety Ed Reed.
The Ravens have a tough schedule this season. They travel to San Diego, New England, Minnesota, Green Bay, and Oakland. Only one of these teams is a relatively easy game for Baltimore.
At home, Baltimore will host Kansas City, Denver, Indianapolis, Detroit, and Chicago. Over half of these teams can give Baltimore real trouble.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Yes, the Steelers will defend their Super Bowl title by winning the AFC North. Of course, they are anchored by their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He will again throw to Hines Ward and the Super Bowl Hero Santonio Holmes.
The Steelers re-signed tight end Heath Miller to help Roethlisberger have another person to pass to. In the backfield are a great tandem of Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall. Either of these backs provide solid support for Roethlisberger.
Who did the Ravens finish second to in defense? That's right, the Steelers. They are led by strong safety Troy Polamalu. He always seems to be in exactly the right place on almost every play.
The Steelers have the support of solid linebackers with LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, and James Harrison. Just so no one is left out, do not forget corners Ike Taylor and William Gay. This team just has too many weapons.
The Steelers do have a slightly tough schedule. They head to Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Kansas City, and Miami. Chicago and Miami will be the toughest games, but the Steelers defense has the prowess to overcome the road disadvantage.
As for their home field advantage, the Steelers host Tennessee, San Diego, Minnesota, Oakland, and Green Bay. This is a much tougher schedule than their away schedule; however, having home field advantage will help the Steelers.
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