2018 AFC North Preview

1. Pittsburgh Steelers– Remember last season after the Jacksonville Jaguars destroyed them, Ben Roethlisberger stated that maybe he should retire? After that took place, they went on an impressive winning streak and looked to be closing in on the top seed in the AFC. They finished with a 13-3 record and the two seed in the conference and were stunned by the Jaguars in the playoffs. Right now, the Steelers are still in charge of this division and will be until the other teams can improve all around. With the three B’s (Ben, Brown, and Bell) and now Juju Smith-Schuster, they will continue to score points and light up the scoreboard. It’s the defense that I’m concerned about and you saw just how much Ryan Shazier was missed in the playoff game against Jacksonville. Having that type of player in the middle of your front seven truly makes a difference. I truly believe that the success of this team will be depending on what we see from the defense. You can’t expect Roethlisberger to throw for 500 yards every single game to bail you out.

2. Baltimore Ravens– They simply aren’t the team that people are afraid of facing anymore. Ever since their Super Bowl victory in 2013, the Ravens have made the playoffs only once and they were on the cusp of potentially making it again last season for the first time since 2014, but that didn’t work out so well. Just like his brother, I think John Harbaugh is on the hot seat entering this season. Baltimore’s offense was what really hurt them. They are too inconsistent and the way I see it, you never know what you’re going to get from Joe Flacco. Their offense could be better this season as they made some signings to bulk up their receiving core. They signed Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead and they still have Buck Allen as their running back. When you think of the Ravens, the defense immediately comes to mind and they will always be one of the best units in the league. They will only get better and continue to frustrate opponents in 2018.

3. Cincinnati Bengals– They had a streak of making the postseason five years in a row, but the last two years, they have underachieved and struggled to win games. Marvin Lewis is back for his 15th season as the team’s head coach and in the seven playoff games that he’s coached in, there’s still a zero in the win column. After losing their first three games last season, they never seemed to recover as they finished the year with a 7-9 record. Their offense really struggled averaging 18 points per game and this was with a healthy Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. This team has weapons across the board to scare defenses. Tyler Kroft was a nice piece that stepped in for the often-injured Tyler Eifert, we can’t forget about John Ross and their running game isn’t too bad either with the combination of Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. Their defense will be without Vontaze Burfict for the first four games as he serves a suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. They also hired Teryl Austin as their new defensive coordinator.

4. Cleveland Browns– Things can only get better from here on out, right? The Cleveland Browns have a record of 1-31 in the last two seasons. They actually have a shot to win a few games this year and they made some stunning moves to make sure that happens. They first acquired Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins, then a few hours later on the same day, they acquired Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills. The thought of a Landry and Gordon receiver tandem should be a scary thought for any defense trying to shut this down. They also signed running back Carlos Hyde. The offensive pieces are there, the biggest question always surrounding them has always been the quarterback position. The defense allowed 25 points per game in 2017, but they have a young group of players returning for this season starting with Myles Garrett. They have everything in place to win games and it all looks nice on paper, but can they put it all together on the field?

2018 Predictions

1. Steelers (12-4)
2. Ravens (9-7)
3. Bengals (9-7)
4. Browns (4-12)

The Steelers will win this division for the third straight season. When Le’Veon Bell is healthy, this is a scarier offense because of the dynamic he brings to the field. He can run it, catch it out the backfield and he moves the chains. The defense will need to step it up big time if they see themselves getting to the Super Bowl this year.