2021 AFC North Preview

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: To me, they were exposed after their first loss of the season in 2020. After winning their first ten games, the Steelers ended the season losers of five of their final six games including a shocking loss to the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs. The biggest issue I had with them was their inability to run the football. However, I also explained that their offensive line wasn’t built to run block. Therefore, the short passing game was their equivalent of a running game because it opened up the field. The Steelers knew they had to get back to running the ball which is why they drafted Najee Harris out of Alabama. The defense will always be the mantra of this team. T.J. Watt will play with a serious chip on his shoulder after finishing second for the defensive MVP voting. Mike Tomlin signed his contract extension and Ben Roethlisberger took a pay cut to return.

2. Baltimore Ravens: When it got tough for them in 2020, they got it going when they needed to. As expected, Lamar Jackson didn’t have the season he did in 19 which won him league MVP. But when his team needed him to make a play, he delivered. Also, he got that playoff monkey off his back! Lamar finally won his first playoff game as a pro! What the Ravens have needed has been more weapons on the outside. Marquise Brown and the other receivers they’ve signed simply haven’t cut it. I like how Baltimore drafted Rashod Bateman, the wide receiver from Minnesota. He’s a possession receiver that goes up to get the football. You can always depend on the defense to be one of the best in the league yearly. One thing I’ll say about John Harbaugh: He will have his men ready to play. That’s for certain.

3. Cleveland Browns: I’m liking what they are building. It used to be a rotating door of head coaches with them. They finally have that guy who will stick with them. Kevin Stefanski in his first year led the Cleveland Browns to 11 wins. He also helped snap the Browns playoff drought. For his efforts, he was named Coach of the Year. They’ve been active in the off-season. The defense continues to get better with the additions of Safety John Johnson III and Jadeveon Clowney. In the draft, they continued the defensive trend. They selected Greg Newsome II in the first round and on the second day, they were able to draft Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah which was a steal. For this offense, Odell Beckham Jr will return from a torn ACL. Also, the running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will be back. I can’t wait to see the strides Baker Mayfield makes after his breakout year last season.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: The only reason why they looked like a competitive team was because of Joe Burrow. Once he went down with his knee injury, they became a non-factor instantly and struggled. I’m still not a fan of what they did in the first round of the draft. Yes, they selected Ja’Marr Chase, Joe’s former college teammate. It’s nothing against Ja’Marr, but they needed offensive line help in the worse way. Having the weapons means nothing if your quarterback will be getting hit in the pocket each week. It’s still a rebuild for the Bengals. I expect them to be competitive in a few seasons. This will be the second year for the Burrow and Zac Taylor chapter.

2021 Predictions

1. Browns (12-5)

2. Ravens (11-6)

3. Steelers (9-8)

4. Bengals (4-13)

I’m picking the Cleveland Browns to win the AFC North. They were active this offseason and improved their roster. To some, they have the most complete roster on paper and I can’t disagree with it. They added John Johnson III from the Rams, drafted Greg Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. How does Baker Mayfield build after a successful 2020? Also, Odell Beckham Jr will return after tearing his ACL last season. 

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