After a devastating loss to the Titans in the divisional round last season, the Ravens look to bounce back this upcoming season. The ravens had the best record in the league last season with a 14-2 regular season record. This team is loaded with offensive weapons, which includes last seasons league MVP Lamar Jackson. Jackson established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and one of the most exciting players to watch. Many fans would tune in to a Ravens games to watch Jackson break defenders ankles, or extend a play and throw a dart downfield. Jackson last season threw for 3,127 yards, 1,206 rushing yards, 36 touchdowns (1st in the league), and the best QBR in the league which was 81.8. This offense success is all on Jacksons shoulders and other teams around the league know this. If you can stop Jackson and contain him in the pocket you have a chance to win. That sounds easy, but defensive coordinators would love to hear tips from people on how to successfully do that. In my opinion this offense will be elite again, because Jackson will carry them. However, the focus for the rest of the offseason will be on defense. The Ravens have the 28th pick in the NFL draft, look for them to use that pick on someone like Patrick Queen linebacker out of LSU. In my opinion they need to use the 28th pick on either a linebacker or edge rusher. If they don’t take Queen because he is a little undersized, or the ability to not finish tackles on first contact, than they should take Curtis Weaver edge rusher out of Boise State. As long as they can get some help on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker and upfront, and Lamar Jackson balls out again, this team will be one of the top teams in the league.
Record Prediction: 13-3
Last season was a rollercoaster for the Steelers. In week two the Steelers lose Ben Roethlisberger to a shoulder injury, which would end his season. The season is off to a terrible start, the Steelers start the season 0-3 and lost their leader. They were then lead by a very talented defense, and an offense who fought each and every week, the team stepped up and ended the season with an 8-8 record. Roethlisberger wasn’t the only one injured on this team. Other big name players like JuJu Smith- Schuster and James Conner were hurt a lot of the season as well. The Steelers showed last season that they play hard and have a very solid defense. Now they will have their veteran leader Roethlisberger back under center ready to lead the Steelers back to the playoffs! Besides the signing of Eric Ebron who will help the offense some with downfield production, the remaining focus will be on the offensive side of the ball. Smith-Shuster needs some help so the focus is not just primarily on him. Michael Pittman Jr. comes to mind wide-receiver out of USC who could come in and from day one help this team out. With the injury history of James Conner at question most of his career, the possibility of drafting a running back like Cam Akers out of Florida State should cross the Steelers minds. But also lets not forget Roethlisberger is 38 years old and injuries could strike again this season. Should the team trust Rudolph or Hodges to carry the team again, or should the draft someone? I think trying to take a player like Jalen Hurts would be perfect. A proven winner, tough, and is duel threat! Fits the profile of a Steeler with the toughness, and fire he plays with. The Steelers should be a top contender in making the playoffs, they will be carried by a defense lead by T.J. Watt, and an offense who will do well if Roethlisberger comes back like himself, and has some additional weapons to throw to.
Record Prediction: 9-8
The Browns have been the talk of the league. The talk has not always been positive. Last season the Browns brought over Odell Beckham Jr., and signed Kareem Hunt. On paper the Browns were loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Baker Mayfield under center, Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and running back Nick Chubb. The Browns were ready to score in abundance on opposing teams defenses. However that ended up not happening. The Browns had one of the worst offensive lines in football last season ranking as the 23rd best offensive line group in the league according to PFF. It definitely showed, Baker was getting hit a lot, and it started messing with his confidence. Beckham Jr. was starting to get frustrated and locker-room drama was beginning to happen. A season that was supposed to have so much potential in making the playoffs and possibly winning the division, ended with a 6-10 record and not clinching a playoff spot. 2020 is the redemption year for the Browns, new head coach Kevin Stefanski looks to try and lead the Browns to their first playoff birth since 2002. The main focus this offseason will be protecting Mayfield and getting a solid offensive tackle. Whether that is trading for Trent Willaims or drafting a guy like Jedrick Wills. After the line questions are answered, the remaining offseason should be focused on the defensive side of the ball. I think the Browns have a much better season in 2020 but are in a tough division lead by the Ravens.
Record Prediction: 8-8
It has been a rough few years for the Bengals. They have been out of the playoffs since 2015, and haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. Last season not much changed for the Bengals ending the season with a 2-14 record. But this season fans have a reason to be excited, because of a man named Joe Burrow. The Bengals drafted Burrow with the number one pick, the former Heisman trophy winner is going to try and sprinkle his winning mentality all over Cincinnati. This fanbase has been looking for something to be excited about for awhile now. They have some good young receivers Tyler Boyd, and John Ross III. Mixed in with veteran receiver A.J. Green, this team has some good weapons for Burrow to throw to. He also has a 23 year old running back who has shown good promise in his first three seasons. The last two seasons Joe Mixon has rushed for over 1,000 yards, which will be nice for taking the pressure off of Burrow. The line will be the remaining rebuild this offseason, the Bengals had the 25th worst offensive line last season. They will need to fix that so Burrow will have time to throw, and Mixon has some running lanes. Edge rusher will be the other focus this offseason getting someone to control the trenches on defense. Drafting Burrow give this team something to look forward to and I think will end up working just fine. But as for the 2020 season the Bengals are still a few years out from truly competing for a playoff spot.
Record Prediction: 4-12
This division is going to yet again be ran by the Ravens. They are to good at all three levels of the ball, and defenses still have not figured out how to stop Lamar Jackson. The Steelers getting Big Ben back and having a very tough defense will put them at the top of list in competing for a wild card spot. The Browns are going to be interesting, they have all the pieces they need to compete at a high level in the AFC, but egos and mental breakdowns could stand in the way of them playing at full potential. The Bengals getting Joe Burrow brings excitement and hope for the future, but the team will still be a couple years out from being a contender.
This post was written before the 2020 NFL Draft began. Here are the top picks for each AFC North team.
Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (#1 overall)
– Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson (#33 overall)
Pittsburg Steelers – Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame (#49 overall)
– Alex Highsmith, LB, Charlotte (#102 overall)
Cleveland Browns – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama (#10 overall)
– Grant Delpit, S, LSU (#44 overall)
Baltimore Ravens – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU (#28 overall)
– JK Dobbins, RB, Ohio State (#55 overall)
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