2013 NFL Preview – AFC North

The 2013 NFL Preview completes today with the review of the AFC North division, and the teams in said division – the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and the defending SuperBowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. 

Obviously, all eyes are focused on the Ravens after their improbable SuperBowl 47 victory last season over the San Francisco 49ers. Immediately afterwards, QB Joe Flacco was signed to the then-richest contract that was ever given out in the NFL. But along with that, he lost his best receiver, his best defensive players, and injuries have decimated this lineup. If Flacco wants to truly be considered an elite quarterback, this is the year to make it happen more than ever. Taking this team to the playoffs would be far more impressive than even the unit he had last year as a low seed. 

With the Ravens not having as strong of a defensive unit at the core, this should be the opportunity for their biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, to come back and be top in the AFC North. The team has made a commitment to going back to the running game by drafting Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell, who is known as a north/south bruising runner, who will replace Rashard Mendenhall. QB Ben Roethlisberger is still considered one of the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL, but the injuries have mounted up on him over the years, and even though he has been mostly very durable, the question that has to stay in Steelers fan’s minds is can Big Ben do whatever he can to not take as many hard, violent, unnecessary shots during the span of an NFL season?  I do see the Steelers getting it together and winning the AFC North and having that 4th position in the AFC Playoffs. 

The Cincinnati Bengals are coming on as a team to be reckon with. QB Andy Dalton is a year older and seems to be taking more of a leadership role on the squad and WR A.J. Green has developed into one of the best receivers in the NFL. A key draft pickup for the Bengals was Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame at tight end. Eifert is a big target and gives Dalton a safe zone if the receivers are locked down or double teamed downfield. Eifert has been very impressive in training camp with his blocking ability as well as his catching ability, which he displayed consistently at Notre Dame. 

The biggest area where the Bengals could be the strongest is on the defensive side of the ball. DT Geno Atkins is one of the top 5 defensive linemen in the league and can rush the passer with the best of them and create havoc on the line. The team added former Steelers LB James Harrison, who is one of the most feared hitters in the league and brings the sense of nastiness and attitude to the squad, along with knowing how to win championships and do well in the playoffs, which is something the Bengals desperately need, considering the franchise hasn’t been to the SuperBowl since 1982 when they lost to San Francisco at the Pontiac Silverdome. I think the Bengals will be in the hunt, but I don’t see them getting into the playoffs this season. I think the team still needs one more big play receiver to put them over the top, but the Bengals will definitely cause some trouble around the league and may cause some teams to miss playoff berths of they don’t respect this team. 

With 3 teams down, that leaves the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are coming off of a rough year where they had to bring in a new rookie QB (Brandon Weeden) and a new RB (Trent Richardson) and Richardson had a few small injury issues during the first year and the Browns never got off the block well. They have one of the best left tackles in the game with Joe Thomas, and on defense they signed LB Paul Kruger from the Ravens and drafted DE Barkevious Mingo from LSU. Too many young players, too little winning experience. Unfortunately, I see the Cleveland Browns being back in the top 5 of the 2014 NFL Draft. They have to keep building pieces before they can be considered legit. 

That’s my review of the AFC North, and the NFL Preview is complete! To read some of the other reviews, check out the posts on the right of the screen. Take care and have a fun NFL season. 

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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