The regular season is getting ready to begin and I will be going by division and in depth with each team to share who I believe will win each division.
Baltimore Ravens: 2015 Record: 5-11
2016 Projected Record: 7-9
Key Additions: Jake Long, Mike Wallace, Eric Weddle, Benjamin Watson
Key Losses: Eugene Monroe, Daryl Smith, Chris Canty
The Ravens are getting back Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman from injury on offense. Now hopefully all of these guys can stay healthy but guys like Forsett and Steve Smith aren’t getting any younger. I like the addition of Mike Wallace because of the deep threat ability alongside Flacco.
I absolutely loved the addition of Benjamin Watson but he unfortunately is likely out for the season with a torn achilles. This would’ve been a huge help at a position that continually saw Dennis Pitta injured and unable to be on the field. They have Crockett Gilmore and Maxx Williams to fill in at TE but Watson would’ve instantly solved the TE position.
On the defensive end the Ravens are obviously trying to get younger with them cutting the likes of Canty and Daryl Smith. They get guys like Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil back from injury to help their pass rush. I like the move of moving Lardarius Webb to safety because he’s been declining as a CB the past few years. They also added Eric Weddle to the back end of their defense so that’s a great veteran presence and I believe he can still perform at a high level.
The young guys are going to have to step up for the Ravens this year. On offense you need Maxx Williams and Breshad Perriman to play big roles and on defense CJ Mosley is going to have to anchor the defense in the middle. I have the Ravens going 7-9 solely on the fact that I believe their offense will be fine with Flacco at the helm but their defense has too many questions for my liking.
Cincinnati Bengals: 2015 Record: 12-4
2016 Projected Record: 11-5
Key Additions: William Jackson (draft), Tyler Boyd (draft), Brandon Lafell, Karlos Dansby
Key Losses: Reggie Nelson, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones
The Bengals offense when healthy is one of the best in the league but WHEN healthy. The Bengals just always seem to have the worst luck whether it being Andy Dalton, A.J Green, or Tyler Eifert getting hurt at very inconvenient times. Last year the Bengals looked poised to try and make a Super Bowl run until Dalton got hurt.
To no ones’s surprise how did the Bengals replace their losses? Through the draft. The Bengals have drafted very well under Marvin Lewis and this year they drafted Tyler Boyd from the University of Pittsburgh in the 2nd round to hopefully replace Sanu/Jones on offense. They also signed Brandon Lafell who has been with the Patriots the past few years to help Dalton as well.
Defensively the Bengals are always at the top of the league in pretty much every category. The loss of Reggie Nelson is a huge loss but to the Bengals it’s less of a loss than it would be to another team cause Bengals are deep in the secondary with George Iloka and Shawn Williams at safety. At cornerback they drafted William Jackson in the 1st round but he tore his pectoral muscle at rhe beginning of training camp which could cost him his rookie season.
The Bengals still have Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Darquez Dennard at CB so I think they will be fine without Jackson as much as I think he would’ve helped. They also still have Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, and Michael Johnson on the defensive line so they still hold one of the best pass rushing D-lines in the NFL. I love this Bengals team IF they can stay healthy to go 11-5 as long as their new acquisitions step up like I think they will.
Cleveland Browns: 2015 Record: 3-13
2016 Projected Record: 4-12
Key Additions: Robert Griffin III, Corey Coleman (draft), Emmanuel Ogbah (draft)
Key Losses: Brian Hartline, Barkevious Mingo, Donte Whitner
The Browns added RGIII in the offseason to hopefully show glimpses of his 2012 season to help the offense get on track. They also get Josh Gordon back but he will be suspended for the first 4 games of the season. The Browns also added Corey Coleman through the draft to give RGIII as many viable options as possible.
The biggest question I have for the Browns offensively is their running game. It’s still unknown who will start week 1 between Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. but I don’t have much confidence in their running game either way. Last year we saw certain instances where Duke Johnson showcased his playmaking ability out of the backfield but I don’t know with Crowell taking touches away if he’ll get the touches he should get.
Now defensively is where the huge problem lies for the Browns. Besides Joe Haden you have a bunch of unproven guys on that defense. Now hopefully for the Browns Haden can come back healthy and return to the high level of play he had before last year because Haden struggled a lot last year.
The Browns have also recently traded their 2013 1st round pick in Barkevious Mingo to the Patriots. Now he will probably become an unstoppable force like everyone does when they go to New England but in Cleveland his play was very underwhelming to say the least. In his first 3 years Mingo had only 7 sacks. Yes, 7. Now if Browns fans expect RGIII to save their whole team then I’m sorry to tell you I unfortunately see another disappointing season for the Browns.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 2015 Record: 10-6
2016 Projected Record: 11-5
Key Additions: Lardarius Green, Artie Burns (draft), Ryan Harris
Key Losses: Heath Miller, Yep that’s about it.
The Steelers offense is going to be one of the best in the NFL barring injuries. Yes, Le’Veon Bell is suspended for the first 3 games and Martavis Bryant is suspended for the whole year but guess what, they still have Antonio Brown who’s not bad at all. As long as Ben Roethlisberger is healthy this offense will be hard to stop.
The running game is also a great part of the Steelers offense. Le’Veon Bell is out for the first 3 games but the Steelers have DeAngelo Williams to step in for those 3 games for Bell. Last year Williams was 10th in the league in yards with 907 and tied the league lead in TDs with 11 while Le’Veon Bell started the first 6 games for the Steelers.
Defense is where all the Steelers weaknesses lie and more specifically it’s the secondary that’s been the problem. They drafted Artie Burns in the 1st round to hopefully help their secondary in the future. Their secondary currently stands with William Gay & Ross Cockrell at the corners with Mike Mitchell & Robert Golden at the safety spots. That’s not a very good secondary at all.
Now the Steelers are hoping that their pass rush can make up for their weak secondary. Last year they drafted Bud Dupree in the 1st round to help that. He only started for 5 games and ended the season with 26 tackles and 4 sacks. Now the huge disappointment has been Jarvis Jones who has started 26 games in the last 3 seasons and has only come away with 5 sacks. Luckily they still have James Harrison who rotates in and is a very viable pass rusher when needed plus he is someone I wouldn’t mess with. The Steelers offense is elite while their secondary will cost them some games so I have them at 11-5.
Final Prediction: I believe Steelers win the AFC North at 11-5 with the Bengals making the wild card also at 11-5.
The next division I will be taking a look at is the AFC South.