Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2010 NFL Predictions - AFC North

The Cincinnati Bengals rocked the AFC North last year by going from a 4-11-1 team in ’08 to a division winning 10-6 one in ’09. The most impressive part of their season may have been the fact that they swept the entire division during the year to a total score of 114-80. Then they ran into the Jets. After getting smoked 37-0 at home in the season finale, the same teams met on the same field the next week in a wild card matchup, and the Jets won again; this time by a score of 24-14. The Ravens will hope to be a better road team this year. In ’09 they won only 3 games away from home, and playoff teams win on the road. Pittsburgh was a streaky team last year, following up a run of five straight wins with five straight losses. They went on to win their last three games of the season but were unable to squeeze into the playoffs in the end. Cleveland was just bad.

Predicted order of finish

1) Cincinnati Bengals
I think the things that worked for the Bengals last year (strong ground game, great against the pass, sound against the run) will work for them again this year. Jermaine Gresham may have been their first draft pick this past April, but I think Jordan Shipley and Geno Atkins may be the rookies that make an earlier impact. I like the direction they started moving in last year, and if Carson Palmer can find his lost arm strength, they should put up even more points this season. Everyone’s picking the Ravens, and an overwhelming majority is usually wrong when it comes to this stuff. The Bengals are essentially the same team from last year except they added more weapons at receiver. So the question is – do you think they’re for real? I’ll buy.

Reasons for optimism –
-Cedric Benson’s first career 1,000 yard season in ‘09
-Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph form a very underrated pair of impressive corners
-Significant attention paid to improving Carson Palmer’s receiving weapons

Potential pessimistic pitfalls –
-More Terrell Owens team-destroying selfish bullshit
-Carson Palmer’s continued regression
-Lack of development from Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers

2) Baltimore Ravens
Again, everyone’s calling for the Ravens to win this division. While I see a lot of breakout potential for Joe Flacco, applaud the acquisition of Anquan Boldin, and expect continued excellence from Ray Rice, that defense scares me. Ray Lewis isn’t the player he used to be, and they will miss Ed Reed every defensive snap he’s on the sidelines. I don’t think their early season schedule sets up for success with three of their first four games being on the road against conference foes, and it will be tough to win three of their last four (@ Houston, vs. New Orleans, @ Cleveland, vs. Cincinnati).

No, the TJ Houshmandzadeh signing doesn’t change anything for me.

Reasons for optimism –
-Finally acquiring a second reliable WR by trading for Anquan Boldin
-Having one of the better offensive lines in football
-The high potential being shown by Joe Flacco and Ray Rice

Potential pessimistic pitfalls –
-Setbacks to the starting corners would expose their lack of depth
-Derrick Mason actually playing like he’s 36
-No Ed Reed

3) Pittsburgh Steelers
At the end of the season they might be the best 3rd place team in the league. I love their linebackers and offensive weapons in Mendenhall, Ward, Wallace, and Miller. The secondary and quarterback position are without a doubt the biggest questions with this team, and I don’t think things set up well early on for success. A home opener against the Falcons won’t be an easy task, and neither will the following game at Chris Johnson’s Titans. After a week in Tampa, they return to Pittsburgh still minus Big Ben to host the Ravens. That could be a 1-3 start before heading into their week 5 bye. That could prove to be too big of a hole to climb out of in this competitive division, especially if Roethlisberger is rusty upon his return.

Reasons for optimism –
-Mike Wallace emerged as a significant big play threat as a rookie
-Rashard Mendenhall rushed for over 1,100 yards behind a poor OL
-Those four beasts at LB

Potential pessimistic pitfalls –
-Dennis Dixon struggles to lead the offense in Roethlisberger’s absence
-Any injury at corner weakens the division’s weakest unit
-A shoddy offensive line fails to improve upon its 50 sacks allowed in ’09 (31st worst)

4) Cleveland Browns
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Cleveland can’t be fixed in an offseason. They added some young talent on defense but too many holes remain at too many positions. I think their defensive front seven will again be one of the game’s worst. Not helping things is the fact that rookie RB Montario Hardesty, a player they were counting on, tore his ACL in the preseason and will miss all of ’10. A bad team + a tough division = last place for a 3rd year in a row.

Reasons for optimism –
-They’ll have a new head coach in ‘11
-Now the city has LeBron to boo too
-Everyone will be too hungover from Ohio State games to notice how bad this team is

Potential pessimistic pitfalls –
-Jake Delhomme realizing he’s Jake Delhomme
-Jerome Harrison’s late last season breakout proving to be a fluke
-Eric Mangini being allowed to coach the entire season

Conference Awards
MVP (best talent in biggest role) – Ray Rice (RB, Ravens)
Offensive POY (most impressive season) – Cedric Benson (RB, Bengals)
Defensive POY – Leon Hall (CB, Bengals)
Offensive ROY – Maurkice Pouncey (C, Steelers)
Defensive ROY – TJ Ward (SS, Browns)
Offensive Breakout Player – Mike Wallace (WR, Steelers)
Defensive Breakout Player – Lawrence Timmons (ILB, Steelers)

No comments:

Post a Comment