Too early season predictions: AFC North

Posted: May 23, 2014 in Football, New entries
Tags: , , , , ,

The dust has settled. The draft’s finished. Houston sent in the clown. Here are some of my predictions for the 2014 season for the AFC North.

Cleveland just okay, not great

I predicted Cleveland would become a playoff team on the assumption that Cleveland would draft wide receivers early and often. And that troubled-superstar Josh Gordon would be on the field. Cleveland failed to draft one wide receiver. Not even in the later rounds. They could’ve taken Odell Beckham at number eight. Instead they’re looking at Miles Austin, Earl Bennett, and Andrew Hawkins duking it out for starting jobs at wideout. Cue the laughter. Maybe in 2015 Cleveland will be a power team. They could draft Amari Cooper and Josh Gordon will be back.

The way things are now, Ben Tate will get injured about week six, and the Browns will be relying on a couple of rookies on offense (Manziel, Terrance West) to keep them in games. Maybe the Browns go 8-8, but they don’t look like a playoff caliber team anymore.

Pittsburgh returns to relevance

The Steelers reestablished their brand with a pair of tough defensive linemen (Stephon Tuitt, Daniel McCullers) and athletic linebackers (Ryan Shazier, Jordan Zumwalt) in the draft. Shaquille Richardson and Wesley Johnson should help stabilize positions of need. Wide Receiver Martavis Bryant should fight for the number two spot with Markus Wheaton and both will play a major role in the offense with Lance Moore stepping in as a role player. Dri Archer is a natural complement to bruising LeVeon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Pittsburgh’s offense will have greater ability to spread defenses out and ultimately win double-digit games this season. I expect week seventeen to be the deciding match for the Steelers and Bengals to win the AFC North.

Cincinnati – Searching for an identity

Cincinnati has a strong defense with inconsistent QB play. The drafting of Jeremy Hill suggests the Bengals want to be a power run team..? A.J. Green and the Gresham/Eifert duo combine for a strong passing attack. WR Marvin Jones has demonstrated a nose for the endzone with ten touchdowns on only 51 receptions. Cincinnati can get by on talent against the NFL’s weaker teams, but to stay competitive against Baltimore and Pittsburgh they’ll have to get more consistent. The drafting of A.J. McCarron sends a clear signal to Andy Dalton that his job is not secure without improvement. If Dalton plays like Dalton, expect to see Cincinnati end the season with 9-10 wins.

Baltimore at a crossroads

A healthy Dennis Pitta, bringing in Steve Smith and the drafting of Mike Campanaro into the offense should help Ravens fans forget about the offensive ineptitude that plagued Baltimore in 2013. Colorado State TE Crockett Gilmore looks like he’ll replace departed Ed Dickson. Ray Rice, even if he misses no time struggled last season. We may see Bernard Pierce taking more handoffs with Rice’s on and off-the-field struggles.

Baltimore added three potential starters with their first three selections in C.J. Mosley, Timmy Jernigan, and Terrence Brooks. If Baltimore can stay healthy, they can make the AFC North one of the toughest divisions in football. The Ravens have a very beatable schedule. Baltimore should near the 9-10 win mark like Cincinnati in 2014.

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