2009 NFL Preview and Predictions: AFC North

Bryan FlynnAnalyst ISeptember 10, 2009

PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 29:  Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field on August 29, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The first preview and prediction featured the AFC East. The East has a coach on the hot seat and a rookie with high expectations starting at quarterback.

The AFC East also has one of the best teams in the NFL the New England Patriots. The Patriots return Tom Brady after miss 2008 to a knee injury.

New England should win the East this season. Still there could be a surprise if another big name player goes down to an injury.

The 2009 NFL preview and predictions moves on to the AFC North the home of the defending Super Bowl champions. The Pittsburgh Steelers own more Super Bowl victories than any other NFL franchise.

The AFC North will be another battle between the Steelers and the Ravens. The Browns and the Bengals are trying to catch up and dethrone the top two teams.

Here is the AFC North preview and predictions in order of finish.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Prediction 13-3

The Steelers are one of the best run organizations in the NFL and return nearly the same team from last year. The whole core of last year’s Super Bowl team is back to make another run at a championship.

The Steelers still have Mike Tomlin as head coach, Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, and Hines Ward at receiver. Oh, do not forget the Steelers defense will be pretty much the same as last season.

The Steelers are the favorites but as last season showed us it does not take much to derail a Super Bowl run. Your wide receiver shoots his self in the leg or a star quarterback goes down and your championship hopes go with them.

The Steelers open the at home against the Titans in the first NFL game of 2009. Next Pittsburgh is on the road for two straight weeks at Chicago and at Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh closes out the first quarter of the season at home against the Chargers. A 3-1 to 2-2 start should not surprise anyone.

The second quarter of the season gives the Steelers a chance to harass a rookie quarterback on the road versus the Lions. Pittsburgh gets a home game against the Browns the next week.

In potential Super Bowl preview the Vikings come to Pittsburgh with Brett Favre behind center. After the Vikings is a bye week then a trip to Denver to take on the Broncos.

Half way through the season and Steelers could be 6-2 to 5-3 and in good position for the second half of the season. The third quarter of the season begins with a home game against the Bengals.

The Steelers get a road game against the Chiefs and stay on the road the next week against division rival the Ravens. Pittsburgh returns home to play the Raiders in the twelfth game of the season.

The last quarter of the season starts with a trip to Cleveland to play the Browns. Then the Steelers get two home games in a row against the Packers and Baltimore.

Pittsburgh closes the season out on the road in a warm weather game in Miami. The Steelers should win but the Dolphins are always tough at home.

The Steelers should defend their division title and finish the season with a solid 12-4 to 13-3 record. Pittsburgh will make the playoffs and get a chance to defend their title from last season.

Baltimore Ravens: Prediction 11-5

The Ravens enter the 2009 season with two big departures. Rex Ryan left for the Jets head coaching job and Bart Scott followed him. The season could hinge more on the sophomore season by Joe Flacco.

After a great rookie year in which Flacco and a great Ravens defense played in the AFC Championship game expectations are high this year. Flacco will be helped by Derrick Mason’s return, after the death of Steve McNair.

Flacco needs to cut down the interceptions in year two after throwing 12 in his rookie year. The Ravens quarterback did complete 60% of his passes last season and should improve this season.

The Ravens open the season at home against the Chiefs and stay in the AFC West the next week with a road trip against the Chargers. Baltimore opens divisional play in week three against the Browns at home.

The fourth week of the season features a nice matchup on the road versus the Patriots. The Ravens could open the season 2-2 after two tough road games against San Diego and New England.

The second quarter of the season starts at home against the Bengals. Before the bye week the Ravens travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings.

After the bye the Ravens play the Broncos at home and then hit the road for a second game against the Bengals. Baltimore should be 5-3 half way through the season with ease.

The Ravens got to the Browns to start the second half of the season. Baltimore plays the Colts at home the next week.

Baltimore gets its first crack at Steelers at home in what could be a huge divisional matchup before, the stretch run of the season. The next week it a tough road game against the Packers in Green Bay.

The final four games of the season start with a home games against Detroit and Chicago. The Bears and Lions should be improved but are very winnable games.

The second to last game of the year will be a trip to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers could be for the divisional title. The Ravens finish the season on the road against the Raiders.

Baltimore should have a good season even with the loss of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott. The defense will be solid as it always is. Joe Flacco’s maturation in his second season could determine how far this team goes in 2009.

Even without a divisional title the Ravens should make the playoffs as a wild card. Once there the defense could carry them far into the post season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Prediction 9-7

This could be a make or break season for Marvin Lewis. Since becoming the head coach of the Bengals in 2003 he has led the team to only one playoff appearance.

That is also the only season above .500 Cincinnati has had with Lewis at the helm. This team has been marred more by off the field issues then what they have done on the field.

The Bengals have the talent to have a good season but seem to be a snake bitten team. The one playoff appearance was over in the first round after quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a knee injury.

If Cincinnati is not losing games to injuries it legal troubles that undermine this team. The 2009 season could begin with Lewis on the hot seat.

The Bengals lost wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh but did sign Laveranues Coles to replace him. Cincinnati is the last chance for Cedric Benson after being deemed a bust in Chicago and Chad Ochocinco (formerly Johnson) could twitter this team to distraction.

This team will go as far as Palmer takes them if he is completely injury free. The Bengals need to avoid the injury bug for a great 2009 season.

The Bengals start to season at home versus the Broncos. They next head to Green Bay to take on the Packers in week two.

The first test of the season comes at home against the Steelers. This game could show if this is the same old Bengals or will 2009 be different.

The Bengals finish the first quarter of the season on the road against the Browns in Cleveland. Cincinnati has a chance to get out to a 3-1 start if they can pull an upset.

The fifth game of the season is on the road against the Ravens. Then the Bengals host the Texans the next week.

The Houston game starts a three game home stand with the Bears next up in Cincinnati. The bye week is next and the Bengals get their second shot at the Ravens.

Halfway thought the season the Bengals could be staring at a winning record or staying home for the post season. Cincinnati starts the final half of the season on the road against the Steelers.

The Bengals stay on the road the next week to travel to Oakland to take on the Raiders. Next up is a two game home stand starting with the Browns. The Lions come to Cincinnati after the Browns.

The final four games could make or break the Bengals season. The Bengals start with a trip to Minnesota to play the Vikings.

They stay on the road the next week to play the Chargers in San Diego. The final home game of the season is against the Chiefs.

The Bengals finish the season on the road against the Jets. Cincinnati fate could be sealed way before the final game.

The Bengals have the talent to challenge the Steelers and the Ravens. The question is will Cincinnati self destruct.

Cincinnati can make a playoff run but will the injuries stay away and will the off the field issues be eliminated. A winning season of 9-7 might not save Lewis job but could inspire hope for next season.

Cleveland Browns: Prediction 5-11

Eric Mangini takes over for Romeo Crennel at head coach for the Browns in 2009. It looks like Brady Quinn will be the starter over Derek Anderson.

The real question could be which team is the real Browns team. The 10-6 team from 2007 or the 4-12 team from 2008.

The quarterback position could define the Browns season. Even though Quinn is the starter how much rope will he get before Anderson replaces him?

The backup quarterback is always the most popular in any city but Anderson did lead the Browns to the 10-6 season of 2007.  If Quinn struggles early the fans and media could start grumbling for a switch.

The Browns first four games should give a good indication how much wiggle room Quinn has. Anderson will be looking his shoulder if Quinn does not get off to a fast start.

Cleveland opens their season at home against the Minnesota Vikings a team that has Super Bowl hopes. They have back to back road games the next two weeks versus the Broncos and the Ravens.

The Browns finish up the first four games at home against the Bengals. Three of the next four games are on the road.

Cleveland travels to Buffalo to play the Bills then on to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The Browns get to stay home for the week versus the Packers then back to the road to play the Bears.

The Browns get a bye after the Bears game. At the midpoint of the season Browns might have a quarterback controversy.

After the bye week the Browns get to stay at home and play the Ravens. Cleveland then travels to Detroit to take on the lions.

Then it’s back to the road again to play the Bengals and a tough home game against the Chargers. The Browns should be solid in the cellar of the division by the final quarter of the season.

The last four games start with a home game versus the Steelers. The Browns take a trip to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. Cleveland gets two home games to round out the season against the Raiders and the Jaguars.

The Browns seem to be looking for an identity. Until one quarterback takes the reins of this team for good it could be looking all season.

Cleveland also is going through a coaching change and it might take a season to turn things around. The Browns will be interesting but a 5-11 season seems possible.

The Bengals and Browns will still be chasing the Ravens and the Steelers in the AFC North. Cleveland and Cincinnati can move up if Flacco struggles in Baltimore.

The defense will lead the way in the North with Pittsburgh and the Ravens leading the way. Points in the division will be at a premium all season long.

The Steelers should win this division as long as they keep focused on repeating and injury free. The Ravens should be able to ride their defense to a wild card spot.


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