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Fantasy Football Roundtable: AFC North Edition

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IJune 27, 2009

IRVING, TX - OCTOBER 05:  Quarterback Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals drops back to pass against the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium on October 5, 2008 in Irving, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It's already late June, which means time to really start gearing up for the fast-approaching 2009 fantasy football season.

Over here at Bruno Boys headquarters that means discussions of events happening around the NFL are in full-force. Today, Bruno Boys Larry and Bruno Boys Ziza are breaking down the AFC North.

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AFC North Burning Questions!

1. With all of the injury concerns revolving around Carson Palmer, not to mention downgrading from T.J. Houshmandzadeh to Laveraneus Coles at the wide receiver postion, what type of year do you expect from the quarterback?

Bruno Boys Ziza:  Larry, the most important thing at this point is to make sure that Carson Palmer remains healthy. According to reports, Palmer is gaining strength and has rediscovered the zip on his passes. If he continues to progress like that until training camp, he will be a very solid quarterback; one that you can trust as a QB1 option in deeper leagues.

He definitely still has some legitimate talent around him, headlined by star wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. He should be just fine.

Bruno Boys Larry: Ziza, you couldn’t be more right. The most important thing will be making sure that Carson Palmer remains healthy in 2009, but if he does (and I believe he will) I look for Palmer to return to form quickly.

This is a quarterback who heading into last season had three consecutive seasons with over 3,800 passing yards with at least 26 touchdowns in each season. As you said, Ziza, he is progressing well and he should be ready to start training camp on time. Barring any setbacks, Palmer could vault back into the top ten in quarterbacks in 2009.

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2. After a pretty successful 2007 season as a group, the Cleveland Browns offense completely flopped in 2008. During the offseason, they traded tight end Kellen Winslow to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What do you see from the offense this season?

Bruno Boys Larry:  I have to say there was not a more disappointing team to me in 2008 than the Cleveland Browns and, Ziza, that includes our beloved Detroit Lions who went 0-16.

The Lions did not have high expectations heading into last season, but after finishing 10-6 in 2007 expectations were soaring for the Browns. They finished the season 4-12 and were just plain awful at times.

Their offense which exploded in 2007 went stagnant last season. And what might be even more puzzling is what this team did in the offseason: After bringing in a new coaching staff with Eric Mangini at the helm, they trade one of their best offensive players in tight end in Kellen Winslow.

I have to say I am completely baffled by this team, and I do not have high expectations for any of the Browns players from a fantasy football standpoint for 2009.

Bruno Boys Ziza:  In all honesty, this offense went through a horrible funk last season and is entering 2009 having traded away their star tight end in Kellen Winslow and is still willing to trade Braylon Edwards if they get the right package deal for him. That is not encouraging considering that their running back Jamal Lewis is getting older.

I don't see much that is positive to elaborate on, but I do see plenty of negative. That is why I would not touch any of the Cleveland Browns this year.

Fantasy Football Preferences - AFC North (Based on 12 team, standard scoring leagues)

1. Ray Rice vs. Willis McGahee vs. LeRon McClain

Bruno Boys Larry: 
RICE. The easy answer would be to go with the veteran McGahee here or even McClain who was the team’s best back in 2008, but I believe when all is said and done, it will be the second-year man Rice who this team will rely on at running back.

McClain is expected to be used more as a fullback this season and Rice is younger and faster than McGahee and, I believe, better suited to be the team's primary back.

The only drawback with Rice is the fact that McClain and McGahee will likely see the bulk of short yardage and goal line situations, which may limit Ray's touchdowns.

Bruno Boys Ziza: RICE. All three of these backs have talent and, in a way, all three will be stealing carries from one another this season. But if it were to come down to one back that I would like to have off of this roster, it would most definitely be Ray Rice.

According to his offensive coordinator, Rice has improved all over the board. Further more, he is entering his second season, meaning he has had the opportunity to adjust to the speed of the NFL game. I, for one, believe Rice is going to have an excellent 2009 campaign.

2. Willie Parker vs. Jamal Lewis

Bruno Boys Ziza:
PARKER. It isn't that I am blown away by Willie Parker's talent as he has not lived up to the expectations that were bestowed on him after a great start to his career. But, Parker is still young enough to make an impact whereas Jamal Lewis is getting older and is definitely on the downturn of his career.

Even with Rashard Mendenhall getting some of the playing time this year, Parker should produce adequately enough to be a solid RB3 option in deeper leagues.

Bruno Boys Larry:  PARKER. This wasn’t even close for me. Sure, Lewis actually had more yardage than Parker in 2008, but fast Willie did miss five games due to injury.

Lewis turns 30 this season and appears to be heading to the downside of his career. Plus, Lewis plays for the Browns who, compared to the Steelers, are offensively challenged. If Parker can stay healthy this season, he should improve on his yardage totals.

The addition of Rashard Mendenhall, who missed most of his rookie season with injuries, should help keep some of the wear and tear off of Parker’s 29-year-old body.

3. Pittsburgh DEF vs. Baltimore DEF

Bruno Boys Ziza:
PITTSBURGH. There is a mixture of solid veterans with younger players in Pittsbugh that I just love. Honestly, though, both defenses are great and both team's deploy a solid ground attack, which only helps keep opposing offenses off of the field.

You really can't go wrong with either as I like them both pretty evenly. But when it comes down to it, I would put the Pittsburgh Steelers defense under my name during draft day. Expect big things from both defenses, though, this year.

Bruno Boys Larry: PITTSBURGH. This was another easy choice for me, Ziza. The Steelers did not lose much from the dominant defense that helped lead them to the Super Bowl in 2008. The Ravens, also, had a dominant defense in 2008, but they had some significant losses during the offseason.

The most notable losses for the Ravens were linebacker Bart Scott and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Both Scott and Ryan were key cogs in the Ravens defensive machine in 2008, and I believe they will be greatly missed this season. The Steelers, on the other hand, will likely finish the season as a top three defense once again.

Bruno Boys’ Quick Hits (Opinions Delivered Harder than Ray Lewis Tackles!)

1. Best addition by a team in the AFC North?

Bruno Boys Larry:  The best addition to an AFC North team during the offseason to me has to be wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the Cincinnati Bengals. Coles isn’t likely more than a low-end WR2 or even a WR3 from a fantasy standpoint, but his value to the Bengals may be greater than any other AFC North offseason move.

Coles should help make up for the loss of free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to the Seattle Seahawks. He will be a reliable veteran for Carson Palmer to lean on, and he should help take pressure off both Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry.

Bruno Boys Ziza:  While he was with the team last year, Rashard Mendenhall missed most of the season because of injury. In a lot of ways, this will qualify as his rookie year, which is why I am choosing him.

As long as he is healthy this year, I see him becoming the goal line back as well as getting a solid amount of carries behind Willie Parker to garner him as a solid RB4. The potential lies there as well for him to see an even bigger role in the Pittsburgh Steelers offense should Parker get hurt.

2. Biggest sleeper from the AFC North?

Bruno Boys Ziza:  We talked about him earlier; my biggest sleeper for 2009 out of this division is quarterback Carson Palmer. He has just enough question marks surrounding him to where plenty of fantasy owners will be scared off in selecting him. However, he does have potential and some serious talent around him that if he does continue to heal from his elbow injury, he will qualify as a QB1 in deeper leagues.

Considering that quarterback is an important position in fantasy football and that his draft value will be low while his potential remains high, I see no one that even nears his possible impact this season as a solid sleeper.

Bruno Boys Larry: Ziza, I don’t necessarily disagree with you about Carson Palmer. Though, I do believe he will be drafted as a QB2 in many drafts this summer, and he has a chance to finish the season as a QB1. But I will go with Rashard Mendenhall as the biggest sleeper in the AFC North this season.

Mendenhall will enter the season with low expectations and minimal value, but in the Steelers' ball-control offense Mendenhall has a chance to shine. He is a big strong runner who will likely move into the role of the Steelers' short yardage back.

With Willie Parker as the team’s primary back, Mendenhall might not have huge yardage totals, but I believe he has a chance to approach double digit touchdowns and could make a nice RB3 in this offense by the end of the season.


3. Biggest possible bust for the AFC North?

Bruno Boys Larry:  I will go with the Baltimore Ravens D/ST as the biggest bust in this division in 2009. Now, I am not saying that the Ravens aren’t going to be a starting fantasy D/ST this season, because they are. What I am saying is that many owners will draft Baltimore’s defense earlier than they should and this could make them a bust.

This is a defense that is getting older and with the key losses I stated earlier in the discussion in linebacker Bart Scott and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan (who are both now with the New York Jets) I believe this team will fall outside the top five or six defensive units in fantasy football.

If you spend an early pick on the Ravens as a top two or three defense this season, I believe you are setting yourself up for a bust.

Bruno Boys Ziza:  This one is an easy one. Whoever starts for the Cleveland Browns at quarterback, between Derek Anderson and likely starter Brady Quinn, will be thrown into a bad situation.

They traded tight end Kellen Winslow and have been trying to move wide receiver Braylon Edwards. That alone is going to bring an iffy atmosphere into the locker room.

While everything went right in 2007, nothing will be going right in 2009. Stay away and let one of your opponents select one of these quarterbacks.  


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