A couple of years ago teams never wanted to face this division because this division was known for rough, punch you in the mouth, style of defenses. The teams leading those defenses have become old, star players have retired. Even with that this remains to be one of the most competitive divisions in football.
Nobody thought coming into this year that they would care about this team at all. But Cleveland as a city is becoming huge for media outlets with a certain NBA player and the most controversial guy in the NFL, Johnny Manziel.
I’m a Manziel guy. I believe he is going to do great thing in this league, but he did not win the starting job over the preseason. And he alone can’t turn a mediocre team into the best team in the nation. The Browns lost a monster receiver in Josh Gordon due to use of marijuana, (If you want an opinion on that another writer is planning on giving you one.) and their starting RB is Ben Tate… They still have Jordan Cameron who I believe will become a ridiculously talented elite TE in the future, but outside of that there is a lot to be desired of this offense.
They grabbed Miles Austin in the offseason who had one good year and as of late seemed to find the perfect time to run horrible routes for the Cowboys so I don’t have much faith in him. It doesn’t matter who the starter is whether it’s Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, there simply is not enough talent on this offense.
Now the defense will be able to pick up a lot slack from the offense. Joe Haden is a top 5 CB no doubt about it. Most WRs will have a very hard time getting open on this guy. They have a good front 7 as well, but outside of Haden they don’t have another elite guy on that side of the ball. They won’t be able to beat good teams with just their defense. At the end of the year the Cleveland Browns will finish 5-11 regardless of if Manziel takes over at some point.
To think that they just won a Super Bowl 2 years ago is crazy. Problem from that is that they’ve lost almost all of their veterans to retirements, trades, or free agency. Then there is the huge controversy surrounding Ray Rice. This team is all out of sorts. There was some crazy stat I saw the other day like 1 out of every 5 players on the Ravens has been arrested. That is beyond outrageous. So distractions are heavy at this point.
Joe Flacco had an average year at best last year, and it does not seem like it’s going to be different if the preseason correlates to anything in the regular season. They have Torrey Smith who will continue to be a deep threat and Dennis Pitta who is a solid TE. The Ravens acquired Steve Smith from the Panthers this past off-season, but he has been on his downward slope for a couple of years now.
On defense Terrell Suggs was and will continue to be a monster on defense, Haloti Ngata is impossible to block and they still have a solid CB Ladarius Webb. That alone though cannot overcome the off field issues and other deficiencies on both sides of the ball. This year the Ravens will end their year 7-9 and 3rd in the division.
Just barely missing the playoffs last year behind the Chargers, the Steelers will be looking for redemption this year. Last year Antonio Brown was a top 5 WR for receiving yards and receptions. Big Ben and Brown have chemistry and I expect that to continue this year. Le’Veon Bell had injury issues his rookie year so the Steelers made a great pickup for this year picking up former Patriot LeGarrette Blount. The offense will be able to do what they were doing near the end of last season and make plays when they need them.
On the defensive side I’m worried though. It seems like the Steelers are looking for the guy farthest away from the ball to make every single play. Troy Polamalu is getting older and cannot continue to do everything on defense for this team. Consistency will hurt this team again this year and it will be their downfall. I have the Steelers going 8-8 and missing the Playoffs again.
The Bengals made it to the playoffs last year but lost to the San Diego Chargers in the first round. By default they should win this division as they are light years above these other teams in pure talent.
I’m a strong critic of head coach Marvin Lewis as he has coached this team for 10+ years without a SINGLE playoff victory. It has is now beyond ridiculous. I do not understand how this man still has a head coaching job in the NFL, much less the same team for this long.
The players are supremely talented here. Andy Dalton falls under the radar too much because of his lack of holding onto the ball, but his numbers are ridiculous only comparison being Peyton Manning in his first few years in the league. AJ Green is a top 3 WR, not up for debate. Giovani Bernard had a solid rookie year. Marvin Jones had four touchdowns in a SINGLE game. They have a solid TE duo with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert and a strong line. That was just the offense I gave you.
On defense they have Carlos Dunlap breaking in for sacks, Geno Atkins is right next to Suh as best DT in the league, Leon Hall at corner and I could go on and on. This team is loaded with talent. They have yet to reach their full potential due to a coach that should not have a head coaching job. They will undoubtedly win this division going 11-5 taking the division and making the Playoffs.
AFC South Preview: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-iM)
AFC East Preview: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-iw)
AFC West Preview: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-iB)