Monday, August 11, 2008

AFC North Rundown

Over the next week or so, I'm going to churn out one of these Rundowns for each of the 8 NFL divisions, which will be the beginnings of my NFL Preview. As the season gets closer, I will have some more in-depth coverage, including projected standings, and an in-depth Steelers preview. Part 1 of 8 can be found below. Enjoy.

I'm going to save most of my Steeler thoughts for the rest of the blog, and the in-depth Steelers preview coming up in the near future, so for the time being, let's run down the other three squads from the AFC North.

The Bengals are a dangerous team in my personal opinion. Granted they have some of the worst chemistry that you will ever find anywhere, and Marvin Lewis has thus far proven himself to be a below-average coach, but they have so much talent across the board on this roster that if they to have a steadying influence from the top of the organization and if Carson Palmer were able to become a true leader, this team could make some serious waves. Of course, much of their chemistry issues stem from Ocho-Cinco himself, the talented but somewhat overrated Chad Johnson. A real trouble spot for this team though is the running game. Rudi Johnson was awful last season and looks like he may be finished. Kenny Watson is a solid backup but isn't every down material. Their line is solid, anchored by good tackles Levi Jones and Willie Anderson but they can only do so much to get that running game in gear. Defensively they have never developed the way Lewis claimed they would, and his longtime rep as a great defensive coach has been heavily tarnished, to say the least. They do have talent in the form of youngsters like Keith Rivers, Leon Hall, and Robert Geathers, but they likely will stay be plagued by a penchant for giving up big plays at bad times. This team, while still ultra-talented is likely going to struggle to get beyond a .500 record, and you've got to think that this is Lewis' last year at the helm.

The Browns are everyone's chic pick headed into this season, which is why, under no circumstances, would I wager on them to surpass the Steelers for division supremacy. Whenever a bandwagon is THIS full, it's a definite warning sign for anyone who is thinking of jumping on board. Derek Anderson came out of nowhere last season, but it will be very interesting to see how he does when teams are game planning on how to stop him. While he does have excellent weapons around him, you've got to think that at some point, the wheels will fall of Jamal Lewis and while Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards are both coming off great years, they have had issues in the past and still remain something of uncertainties. Much like their Ohio counterparts, the Browns also have had issues with their defense despite a head coach who made his name on the defensive side of the ball. The Browns made a number of moves in the offseason to address this defensive shortcomings, but I'm still not sold. Shaun Rogers has a well-deserved rep for taking plays off, and it really hurt the secondary when the team lost Leigh Bodden to pick Rogers up. I do think that Kamerion Wimbley is in for a bounce back year after struggling through much of last season. With as much talent as the Brownies have on the offensive side of the ball, the Browns certainly can't be dismissed, but now that they are viewed as a legit threat for the first time in years, it will be very interesting to see how the team deals with the new dynamic.

The Ravens are in full rebuilding mode at this point, and if they do the right thing and get Joe Flacco plenty of snaps this season, you can write this year off but the future will be better for it. Early word out of Baltimore camp is also that Willis McGahee may be having injury issues, and that would only further derail their season. The defense will be stout yet again, as Ray Lewis would never allow it to be anything but, and having Ed Reed in the secondary certainly helps as well. Still, the Birdies will be hard-pressed to get past a handful of wins with an offense that figures to struggle mightily until their QB situation is handled.

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