Surprises Galore in AFC North

TJ BuzzeoCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2008

1)      Cleveland Browns

I really don’t like any team too much more than any other in the Northern division, but with the Browns explosive offense and another year of experience may be just good enough for the Browns to win the division.  Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow II are the real deal plus the addition of Donte’ Stallworth also takes some of the pressure off of Edwards and Winslow to get open.  Willie McGinest and Shaun Rogers veteran leadership should help keep opposing teams within reach for their high potent offense. 

I have two big concerns about the Browns.  The first is obvious for football fans, when was the last time the Browns won the division?  Because God knows I do not remember when it was.  The other concern is Derek Anderson.  Anderson had a great year last season, however he ended the season horribly, and Brady Quinn is still on the bench.  If Anderson’s troubles continue a couple weeks into the season the “Boo Birds” will be out and the “Brady Quinn” chants will start.

Final Record: 10-6

2)  Pittsburgh Steelers

Let’s be honest for a moment, the Steelers are the best team in division.  They have a great running game with Willie Parker and one of the most consistent receivers with Hines Ward.  Also, “The Steel Curtain” defense still intimidates offensive coordinators to plan ahead for heavy blitz packages.  (On a personal note I love the fact that they have Billy Latzko the guy is a beast).

Since we are being so open let’s not forget that since gaining national recognition Troy Polamalu has been less than great only accumulating 58 tackles and not intercepting one pass last season while missing five games. Also, Roethlisberger has never struck me as a stand out quarterback.  He is more of a guy that will just get the job done with one great season, and I do not like the fact that he was calling out the Steelers front office about his receivers when Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller and Ward are more than capable of getting the job done, no matter what their heights are. 

Final Record: 9-7

3) Baltimore Ravens

      I honestly could have seen the Ravens make a run at the playoffs in this division, if it wasn’t for one thing, who the heck is the Quarterback?!?!?  Look at the team they have, Willis McGahee and Ray Rice running the ball, Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason are good (but not great by any means), and Todd Heap is one of the top 3 tight ends in the game.  Also, the defense is still really good.  Trevor Pryce, Kelly Gregg, and Haloti Ngata make up one of the best defensive lines in the game, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs are both pro- bowl type linebackers, and the defensive backs are very good.

      Now back to reality.  I am not certain, but pretty sure that at some point this offseason Brian Billick used some phrase describing his quarterback situation like, “The way I see it, we have three quarterbacks on this team,” he may have even sounded serious while saying it.  But there is an old saying, “If you have more than one quarterback then you don’t have any quarterbacks,” and anybody who has seen Kyle Boller play can count him out, and unless Troy Smith is cut from the same mold Doug Flutie was his playing career will not last too long.  That leaves the Ravens down to one quarterback Joe Flacco, the rookie from Delaware.  I am not a fan of rookies starting, especially when they are forced into the starting role.  It won’t end well for Baltimore this year.

Final Record: 6-10

4) Cincinnati Bengals

To some this may be a surprise to some who are right now listing all of the offensive stars on the Bengals and expect that too be good enough alone to be better than the quarterbackless Baltimore Ravens.  I mean who wouldn’t think that the third best quarterback in the league with one of the top five receivers in the NFL to go along with another pro-bowl caliber receiver, and a very good running-back could put more points on the board than the other team more times than the Ravens?  Well I guess I am for one.

Here’s why.  The Cincinnati Bengals always get in trouble and although it may be wrong to expect people to get into trouble, the Bengals may be the exception to the rule. Also, similarly to Brian Billick, Marvin Lewis has seemed to lose touch with what he was known for (Billick and offensive genius with the Vikings as a coordinator, now can’t score any points, Lewis was the defensive coordinator of one of the best defenses in NFL history with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, but now can’t stop anybody).

Final Record: 4-12