The AFC North is a division of the National Football League‘s (NFL) American Football Conference. It was created as the AFC Central in 1970 following the completion of the AFL–NFL merger when two of the NFL teams—the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers—moved from the “old” NFL to join the former American Football League teams in the AFC. Upon realignment, the conference received a new name the AFC North. The AFC is relatively the same members since 1970 except Houston Oilers who relocated to Tennessee, the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars who competed in the division from 95-2000 and the Baltimore Ravens who first competed in the division in 1997 after Art Modell moved his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. In 1999 Cleveland re-launched a new team joining the AFC North.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the current champions of the division. Since the 1970s the Steelers have won the division 22 times, 29 playoff berths, 8 AFC titles and six wins against one loss in Super Bowls. The standard for greatness is high. The Steelers have two old times from the last victory in Super Bowl QB Big Ben and ultimate warrior at linebacker James Harrison. On offence, the Steelers has a top three RB in Le’ Veon Bell and the best wide receiver combo in the AFC. Moreover, Juju Smith-Schuster the second pick should make an immediate impact. On defence, the day of destruction and havoc caused by the Steel Curtain is a thing of the past. The Steelers D improved from a unit that at times struggled with the run game. In the draft, they acquired with the first pick T.J. Watt the younger brother of J.J Watt is expected to have immediate reps as an outside cover linebacker and run stopper and sack machine from DE position. Watt mainly would be lined up as OLB. My final analysis is the first place finish in the division and the excellent chance of usurping New England as AFC champions. The guys will want to win another NFL championship for Big Ben whose career is coming to an end. Pittsburgh could finish as high as 15-1 to 12-4. They would need a 15-1 or 14-2 to host AFC championship game. I expect them to be in the hunt to host throughout the playoffs with no worse than a 13-3 record. Everything is set up for another Super Bowl run barring injuries in the backfield and improvement in stopping teams who depend on the run to set up passes such as Baltimore, KC, Minnesota, and Tennessee. The big game is in Baltimore on October 1st, at KC two weeks later, hosting GB on November 26th and hosting Baltimore and New England December 10th and 17th. If they go 5-1 or 4-2 in those games, they have a good chance for a number one seed because the other games should be favoured to win.
The Baltimore Ravens plays its home games at M&T Bank Stadium. Since 1996 the Ravens have qualified ten times with two Super Bowl victories. The Ravens has been led by general manager Ozzie Newsome since 1996 and has had three head coaches: Ted Marchibroda, Brian Billick, and John Harbaugh. In the 2000 season, the team established a reputation for relying on strong defensive play, led by players like middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who, until his retirement, was considered the “face of the franchise. The owner of team Steve Bisciotti and valued at $1.5 billion, making the Ravens the 24th-most valuable sports franchise in the world. Once again the Ravens will put a strong D on the field. The Raven’s special teams rated in the top three years in year out, and 2017 will be no exception. Justin Tucker is the kicker, Sam Koch punter and Morgan Cox the long snapper. The Ravens have no weakness on D with the acquisition of Brandon Carr from Dallas and Jimmy Smothe being the top cover man-along with a DB corps that goes eight deep the Ravens should be in the top 5 D in NFL. The Ravens will stop the run even though they lost Elvis Dumervil to free agency and Lawrence Guy to New England. Wormley, Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi will do just fine. The Raven’s weak point is offence, but they should be improved with Rice incident dead and buried. I believe the league and team are better with him not being in the league. Danny Woodhead and Terrence West sit in the backfield, with the speedy Mike Wallace and physical Perriman at wideout.
The line is not improved, and they are thin at wideout. The only thing keeping Ravens from serious contention is an all-star lie to block for Flacco and capable receivers to back up the starters. I see Baltimore being a run and possession team with touches to the tight ends with occasional long balls to Wallace. We have a problem although improved opposing D will see the same Baltimore team on O with no real changes in philosophy. That said Joe Flacco is a well deserved all star and the teams coached by a future Hall of Famer in Harbaugh. The Ravens won’t win many games scoring 40 + then again few teams will score 24+ on the Ravens. My final analysis is a 2nd place finish in a division that once boasted 3 top teams and a cellar dweller on the cusp of improvement. I see an improvement from 8—8 record the team is capable of a 9-7 to a 10-6 record. The most important game on the schedule is October 26th hosting Miami, split the games with Bengals and Steelers and sweeping the Browns. Miami is key in that they will be vying for a wildcard or division championship. I expect 2nd place finish with the assumption Cincinnati continues to take a step backwards.
The Cincinnati Bengals founded in 1966 as a member of the American Football League (AFL) by former Cleveland Browns head coach Paul Brown. Brown was the Bengals’ head coach from their inception to 1975. After being dismissed as the Browns’ head coach by Art Modell (who had purchased a majority interest in the team in 1961) in January 1963, Brown had shown interest in establishing another NFL franchise in Ohio and looked at both Cincinnati and Columbus. He ultimately chose the former when a deal between the city, Hamilton County, and Major League Baseball‘s Cincinnati Reds (who were seeking a replacement for the obsolete Crosley Field) was struck that resulted in an agreement to build a multipurpose stadium which could host both baseball and football games. The Bengals have won nine divisional championships in the AFC Central which changed the name to AFC North in 2002. The Bengals are one of the 13 NFL teams not to have won a Super Bowl as of the 2016 season; however, they are also one of 9 NFL teams that have been to at least one Super Bowl but have not won the game. The Bengals recent struggles in the post season over shadow the fact that they were one of the most consistent franchises in the NFL from 2011-15. The team won at least ten games, four teams, reaching the playoffs in each of those seasons. In 2016 the run ended and the Bengals suffered their first losing season since Andy Dalton arrived at the helm. The strength of the team is its offence with Andy Dalton who threw for 4,206 yards and 64.7 completion percentage. A.J. Green missed six games due to injury, and that would be one of the causes of decline.The Bengals added much maligned Oklahoma back Joe Mixon in the draft a capable running back who can catch the ball. The Bengals would need to have Tyler Eifert healthy and veteran RB Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill as a key part of the rotation. On D the Bengals group surprised in a down season. They finished third against in the second half of the season. The Bengals run D is a beat but the pass rush needs to make more sacks a stat they rank in the bottom 4 in the league. My final analysis points to the Bengals drafting good players despite a first round draft choice. Joe Mixon as more than a good chance to become a starter in rookie season. The team is loaded on O and improved on D. The key factor is the Bengals have never gotten past first round playoffs. Moreover, the fans don’t seem to give QB Andy Dalton credit. If the Bengals continue to free fall, you might hear the name A.J Mc.Carron a third-year star out of Alabama who played well when Dalton injured. On December 13, 2015, starting quarterback Andy Dalton fractured the thumb on his throwing hand while trying to make a tackle in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the Steelers won 33–20, McCarron came in and completed 22 of 32 passes for 280 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The following week he beat the San Francisco 49ers 24–14. On January 9, in the AFC Wild Card round, McCarron completed 23 of 41 passes for 212 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, but the Bengals lost to the Steelers, 18–16, ending their season. The Bengals took three steps back last season. To continue, they have lost many players to free agency. The team once built to win right away as cleared its way for next generation players to step in and make plays. I see a quarterback controversy either Mc. Carron is leaving at the end of contract or Dalton wanting out if he gets injured and back up as a good season. One thing in Dalton favour is he’s rarely injured missing only three games in six seasons. That said everyone in the Bengals organisation from coaches to starters is on the hot seat if they produce a sub par season. It is sad too because of the team’s consistency. My final analysis is the Bengals finishing tied for 2nd at best with a 10-5 record but third in the conference due to weaker division record than Baltimore. The Bengals could be 9-7 or 8-8. If they play Bengal football, I don’t see why they cannot be a wildcard and 2nd seed in the division. At the moment I rate them third best in the division.
The Cleveland Browns have been competing in the NFL for 71 years. We spoke early in the article of Art Modell moving the franchise to Baltimore. Since resuming operations in Cleveland 1999, the Browns have struggled to find success. They have had only two winning seasons- in 2002 and 2007, along with One playoff appearance (2002) and no playoff wins. The Browns’ overall win-loss record since 1999 is 88–200. They are noted for lack of leadership, discipline and poor draft choices. The most notable being TD Johnny Manziel. Cleveland only direction is up from being so far down. The draft is a nice surprise I give them an A in that they drafted Jabrill Peppers out of Michigan in the first round. David Njoku at tight end and DeShone Kizer is a kool pick that should pay dividends in the future. The Browns invested in an O line signing Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter in free agency. They have pro bowler left tackle Joe Thomas at anchor. The QB position improved with Kessler, Osweiler and the rookie Kizer. The top RB is Isaiah Crowell, but they have the young guy Duke Johnson.
I’m surprised they let Terrelle Pryor walk in free agency. The converted wide out from QB had more than 1000 yds receiving. The Browns D is Ok they need to improve, and they have addressed the problem of DB through free agency with the acquisitions of Marcus Martin, Tyvis Powell and JC Tretter. My final analysis is Cleveland, the most improved team in the league, and I hope the changes equate wins. They will be playing for the future. Expect a 4-12 season wins hosting the Jets, at Chicago possible upset, possible upset of Indy and split with Cincinnati.Another winnable game is Washington who seems to be on the decline. Cleveland is playing for future, but it’s a good future. One more point if the Browns get good QB play and cut down on penalties and nullify the big plays this team is capable of 6-10 to the 7-9 season but the schedule is tough, and 4-12 is the best to expect from Cleveland. I’m Courtney Duncan this weekend AFC West prediction and preview up next.