The AFC North is undergoing some transition.
Pittsburgh Steelers – If I could I’d have the Cincinnati Bengals lined up alongside the Steelers. In my mind the Steelers and Bengals are going to be engaged in a tight battle to win the AFC North. The reason Pittsburgh gets the nod as a favorite is because of history. They have a way of coming back from sub-par seasons and winning it all. Having missed the playoffs last year the Pittsburgh Steelers will be coming back with a revenge mindset that means the other teams in the division better watch out.
Cincinnati Bengals – I like the way the Bengals are headed. But it’s hard to shake the image of a team that always looks good on paper but dissolves on contact with the regular season. Here’s the thinking behind my optimistic outlook on the Bengals: First, there’s a defense that’s already good and looks to get better and they’re fundamentally sound up front and added James Harrison to the linebackers. Secondly, Andy Dalton is at that point where things usually begin to click for a young quarterback. A good running game and the addition of young talent at the Tight End spot could give Dalton the confidence he needs to break through.
Baltimore Ravens – How can the reigning Super Bowl champions fall to the third spot in their division? Lose a bunch of people that were responsible for winning that Super Bowl is how. The Ravens are a different team now and there’s not a soul out there who can predict how things are going to go. Plus, winning a Super Bowl is not good for your immediate future. Give me a bye if I’m wrong but I can’t help but feel that Baltimore is re-tooling and has to pay the piper in 2013.
Cleveland Browns – The Browns have a new owner, a new coach, but maybe not a new direction. This franchise is once again starting over and that usually doesn’t mean instant success. With the other three teams in the division already established in one way or another the Cleveland Browns will be playing catchup for a long while.