Tuesday, August 01, 2006

AFC North Preview

Last Year’s Predictions
Pittsburgh 14-2
Baltimore 11-5
Cincinnati 8-8
Cleveland 6-10

What Really Happened
Cincinnati 11-5
Pittsburgh 11-5
Baltimore 6-10
Cleveland 6-10

The World Champions came from the AFC north last season and could this season as well. The Pittsburgh Steelers will return to the top of the north while the Cincinnati Bengals wilt under the pressure of playing a tougher schedule. Baltimore will improve this season as well with the leadership of veteran quarterback Steve McNair even though he won’t be healthy all season and the Browns will be the Browns.

Baltimore Ravens – Projected Finish 8-8 (3rd)
Big Question Mark: Offensive Line

Steve McNair will battle Kyle Boller for the starting quarterback spot, and win. Jamal Lewis, Todd Heap, Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason will provide McNair with plenty of weapons but the offensive line will struggle again.

This same line gave up 42 quarterback sacks last season which resulted in numerous injuries to the Ravens signal callers. Nothing changed on the line during the off-season which leads me to believe that nothing will change on the field this season.

Key Losses:
DT Maake Kemoeatu
DE Anthony Weaver
QB Anthony Wright

Key Additions:
RB Mike Anderson
DE Trevor Price

Cincinnati Bengals – Projected Finish 8-8 (2nd)
Big Question Mark: Defensive Line

How quickly Carson Palmer is able to return to 100% will be a key factor to the Bengals success but even with him back Cincinnati may have to win some shootouts because of their lack of pressure up front.

The addition of Sam Adams will help the unit that had just 28 sacks last season but the 2006 version will still be very young and most importantly depth.

Key Losses:
DE Duane Clemons
QB Jon Kitna
DE Carl Powell
LB Nate Webster

Key Additions:
DT Sam Adams
QB Anthony Wright

Cleveland Browns – Projected Finish 5-11 (4th)
Big Question Mark: Quarterback

Second year quarterback Charlie Frye will be the Browns starting quarterback and fans in Cleveland had better hope he doesn’t suffer any injuries because depth and experience are lacking with their quarterbacks. Behind Frye is Ken Dorsey who only has 10 starts in three seasons and Derek Anderson who will be in his second season.

Key Losses:
WR Antonio Bryant
QB Trent Dilfer
DE Kenard Lang

Key Additions:
TE Ken Dorsey
WR Joe Jurevicius
LB Willie McGinest
NT Ted Washington

Pittsburgh Steelers – Projected Finish 12-4 (1st)
Big Question: Receivers

Before last season Hines Ward lost his partner Plaxico Burress, then he held out of camp, then he went on to become the Super Bowl MVP. Now Ward lost his second partner in as many seasons when Antwaan Randle El bolted to the Washington Redskins.

The Steelers drafted speedster Santonio Holmes with their first pick in the draft and there is talk now of moving Ward back to slot where he played when Burress was his teammate.

Pittsburgh also drafted another quick receiver in the third round, Florida State product Willie Reid. Regardless saying that the receivers are the big question for the Steelers is actually a complement to how good they are as a team.

Key Losses:
RB Jerome Bettis
DE Kimo von Oelhoffen
WR Antwaan Randle El

Key Additions:
DE Rodney Bailey
FS Ryan Clark

AFC North Predictions
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
Cincinnati Bengals 8-8
Baltimore Ravens 8-8
Cleveland Browns 5-11

AFC East Preview