Last season the Cincinnati Bengals came from now where to not only take the division but also record a rare 6-0 divisional record, however it is unlikely that lightening can strike twice even with the addition of wiener sucking Terrell Owens, however with the Browns also set to improve this looks like one of the toughest divisions in the NFL this season, possibly second only to the NFC East. The winner of this division could go a long way in the post season and should produce one of the Wild Cards again.
The Baltimore Ravenswere our Super Bowl tip last year and although they won a post season game they didn’t look convincing on offense coming up short on occasion. Five of their losses were by less than a TD and that lack of firepower ultimately cost them dear. However this year they seem to have addressed their wide receiver issue by picking up Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth who although injured will still be back in time for the serious end of the season. Picking up TJ Houshmandzadeh has just added extra spice to what now looks a potent offense, and their losses on defense should be plugged by their two 2ndround draft picks Sergio Kindle andTerrence Cody both of whom could easily have gone in the first round. Its been 10 seasons since the Ravens last graced the Super Bowl and this year they could be back. Given the question marks against the Steelers at QB they should be good enough to take the division.
The Pittsburgh Steelers missed out on the playoffs last yearthanks to an inexplicable loss of form which saw them lose 5 games in a row including bad defeats to Kansas City, Oakland andCleveland. None of their 7 losses was by more than a TD however and by resigning the likes of Casey Hampton & Ryan Clark they have kept the core of the team together. Maurkice Pouncey looks an inspired draft choice giving them versalility on the Offensive Line and picking up Byrant McFadden has ensured they will have one of the best secondary’s in the AFC. They will push the Ravens all the way and could face them in the AFC Championship game as they did a couple of seasons ago. The loss of Roethlisberger will hurt the team but with that suspension now only 4 games the Steelers should make the post season despite being in such a tough division.
The Cincinnati Bengals will find it hard to repeat last seasons heroics and they looked like they were running out of steam badly towards the end effectively limping into the post seasson with only one win in their last 4 games. There they were soundly beaten by the Jets and this season they dont have the luxury of an easy schedule to fall back on. In fact theirs looks pretty ugly with 11 of their games being against genuine play off contenders. They could easily slump to 8-8 and its hard to see them making a wild card with that.
The Cleveland Browns finished the season strongly however in this company its hard to see how they can finish anywhere but bottom. They have rang the changes offloading a heap of players and although they have brought in some solid players its hard to see where the improvement will come from. They have drafted with an eye to the future and although it is almost certain that in time Mike Holmgren will turn the franchise around it will not be this season. if they can match their 5-11 finish of 2009 they will be happy.
Forecast Final Finishing Positions
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Cleveland Browns