By: Cory Vest
From the East to the North; staying in the AFC we look at the team that fell just shy of Super Bowl LI. Their loss was at the hands of the powerful Patriots. We also plunge to the bottom of the league to get our hands dirty with the dawgs. From one of the best teams, to one of the worst teams, and everywhere in between, the AFC North is composed of the following; The Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers – Over/Under 10.5
The men of Steel have made themselves synonymous with tough play and success. With three straight playoff appearances, the Steelers can count on a fourth in 2017; finishing over the 10.5-win mark.
Antonio Brown is arguably the best in the business. If the ball is not traveling by air, then by land and Le’Veon Bell it shall go. Patience meets timely decision making as Bell possesses a rare set of talents; putting him towards the top of the league at what he does. Old Big Ben will continue to hold the fort steady. On the defensive side of the ball, stinginess is no stranger. A group that can step up and shut down may have gotten a nice addition to their defensive line in draft pick T.J. Watt; no that wasn’t a typo, T.J. is the younger brother of J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.
The Steelers will be the King of the North for yet another year. A 12-4 record will give the Steelers the same record as the Patriots. A repeat of last year’s AFC Conference Championship will not be in store however, as the Steelers lose in the Divisional round.
2. Cincinnati Bengals – Over/Under 8.5
A very disappointing 2016 season left the Bengals licking their wounds. Injuries plagued the team throughout the year, most notably A.J Green and Tyler Eifert each missed stretches of time. A healthy offensive squad will reimburse the defense’s effort with key stops turning into quick points. Look out for the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton, as he could take advantage of a slew of sneaky talent.
The Bengals make the over, hitting double digit wins. A 6-9-1 record will flip as the Bengals go 10-6. An exciting Wild Card match-up may catapult the Bengals deep into the playoffs.
3. Baltimore Ravens – Over/Under 9
Acquisitions such as Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead give Joe Flacco more options on offense. A stout defense last year, shouldn’t lose a step this year. It seems that the Ravens should be in line to improve upon a mediocre 8-8 record posted last season. Bad luck, costly mistakes, and missed opportunities to close out games will cause the Ravens to finish under the win total however.
The Ravens will suffer defeats to unlikely opponents causing them to go 7-9 on the year. Maclin will prove to be nothing more than decent while Woodhead will have his share of productive games. He’ll find his way into a big play or two as well. Flacco will post Flacco numbers, 20+ touchdowns coupled with an interception total lower than 16 and 3,700 yards throwing. Solid numbers but it will not get the job done. The Ravens miss the playoffs for a third straight season.
4. Cleveland Browns – Over/Under 4.5
We’ve come to the dumpster fire that is the Cleveland Browns. A team that hasn’t tasted success in quite some time, the Browns were one win away from a winless season in 2016. A first overall pick in Myles Garrett may have Browns fans excited; if there is such a thing as an excited Browns fan.
Other names are new to the roster as well. The quarterback carousel continues in Cleveland as Brock Osweiler looks to handle the reigns. Osweiler may want to use gloves before touching those reigns since they’ve been passed around quite a bit. A thousand-yard receiver joined the Dawg Pound as Kenny Britt will now sport the Browns’ beautiful uniform. Britt will not outperform Terrelle Pyror on the season; the talented and athletic wide receiver with the Browns last year will now perform for the Washington Redskins.
The bottom line here, Osweiler and Britt are not going to increase the Browns’ win total by more than three games; even with the help of Myles Garrett on the defensive side of the ball. The Browns finish under the 4.5 mark. Cleveland fans need to continue to wear brown paper bags over their faces as the lowly squad will finish the season 4-12.