AFC North Breakdown

By Thomas Rowberry (@Rowberry_)

Last Season

Baltimore Ravens 10-6

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-6-1

Cleveland Browns 7-8-1

Cincinnati Bengals 6-10

Baltimore Ravens

Draft Selections: Marquise Brown, WR (1.25), Jaylon Ferguson, OLB (3.85), Miles Boykin, WR (3.93), Justice Hill, RB (4.113), Ben Powers, G (4.123), Iman Marshall, CB (4.127), Daylon Mack, DT (5.160), Trace McSorley, QB (6.197)

Offseason Key Additions: Earl Thomas, S (Seattle Seahawks), Mark Ingram, RB (New Orleans Saints), Seth Roberts, WR (Oakland Raiders)

Offseason Key Departures: Terrell Suggs, OLB (Arizona Cardinals), CJ Mosley, LB (New York Jets), Eric Weddle, S (Los Angeles Rams), John Brown, WR (Buffalo Bills), Za’Darius Smith, OLB (Green Bay Packers), Joe Flacco, QB (Denver Broncos), Michael Crabtree, WR (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 40-1

Analysis: Eric DeCosta’s first offseason as ‘the guy’ was spent overhauling the Ravens roster to fit the skills of their young signal caller. DeCosta completely overhauled the offensive threats around Lamar Jackson, ridding the team of starting receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree whilst adding former Saints running back Mark Ingram to be a bell cow back and drafting college standouts Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and Miles Boykin as downfield threats.

Defensively the Ravens lost as much talent as any team in the league, losing stalwarts Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley and Eric Weddle as well as pass rushing specialist Za’Darius Smith. That being said they may now have the best defensive backfield in the league thanks to the addition of former All-Pro Earl Thomas who joins Marlon Humphrey, Travon Young, Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson. The one area that remains a concern for the Ravens is the front seven, the losses of CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith haven’t really been addressed in the offseason meaning the likes of Tyus Bowser, Kenny Young and third round pick Jaylon Ferguson are going to need to have big seasons to cover the losses.

Don’t get it wrong, Baltimore still have one of the best situations in the league. There is talent at the offensive skill positions, they have one of the best offensive lines in the league and arguably the best defensive backfield in the league. Baltimore will be good.

Look Out For: The thing everyone is looking out for regarding the Ravens is the evolution of Lamar Jackson, will he take the steps to become a true passer in the NFL or will the Ravens zig whilst the league zags and lean into the running game that served them so well last year? One team played the Lamar Jackson led Ravens last year, the Los Angeles Chargers, they figured the Ravens out and forced Jackson to throw the ball to disastrous results so unless Jackson has improved the Ravens could struggle offensively even with the talent around him.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft Selections: Devin Bush, LB (1.10), Diontae Johnson, WR (3.66), Justin Layne, CB (3.83), Benny Snell Jr, RB (4.122), Zach Gentry, TE (5.141), Sutton Smith, LB (6.175), Isaiah Buggs, DE (6.192), Ulysees Gilbert III, LB (6.207)

Key Offseason Additions: Donte Moncrief, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars), Mark Barron, LB (Los Angeles Rams), Steven Nelson, CB (Kansas City Chiefs)

Key Offseason Departures: Antonio Brown, WR (Oakland Raiders), Le’Veon Bell, RB (New York Jets), Morgan Burnett, S (Cleveland Browns), Jon Bostic, LB (Washington Redskins)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: Has a team ever lost two of the best players at their respective positions in one offseason before? Because that’s what happened to the Steelers this offseason. Following a 9-6-1 season that saw Le’Veon Bell sit out the year and Antonio Brown ‘quit on the team’ the Steelers parted ways with both, allowing Bell to sign as a UDFA for the New York Jets and trading Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of draft picks (2019 third and fifth round picks).

In Bell and Brown’s absences last year the Steelers saw running back James Conner and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster breakout as two of the best young players at their respective positions, they’re hoping for similar jumps from their supporting casts. Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league so with Conner, JuJu and a supporting cast that features Vance McDonald, Eli Rogers and James Washington the Steelers offense should remain one of the best in the league.

In Devin Bush the Steelers have one of the most highly touted rookies in the league and look to have finally found someone to have filled the gap created by Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury a few seasons ago. Reports suggest that Bush is already showing up as a leader for the Steelers defense, a unit which has been missing a true leader in the middle of the field.  The Steelers defensive backfield should be much better in 2019 with the additions of Steven Nelson from the Chiefs and rookie Justin Layne, both of who should feature somewhat heavily after seeing disappointing play from the likes of Artie Burns in 2018.

Look Out For: In order for the Steelers to be great this season they’re going to need Big Ben to have one of his best seasons, their schedule looks one of the most difficult in the league with them typically facing three tough games to every ‘easy’ game this season – First four quarter of the season see them play the Patriots, Seahawks, 49ers and Bengals, the second quarter sees them play the Ravens, Chargers, Dolphins and Colts, the third quarter they play the Rams, Browns, Bengals and Browns before finally ending the season with games against the Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Ravens.

This team is still one of the most talented in the league, and they still haven’t had a losing record with Mike Tomlin as Head Coach but the schedule is rough, the offensive skill position players surrounding Conner and JuJu are mostly unproven at this point so if Big Ben doesn’t have a big season the Steelers could be in for a long season.

Cleveland Browns

Draft Selections: Greedy Williams, CB (2.46), Sione Takitaki, LB (3.80), Sheldrick Redwine, S (4.119), Mack Wilson, LB (5.155), Austin Seibert, K (5.170), Drew Forbes, T (6.189), Donnie Lewis Jr, CB (7.221)

Key Offseason Additions: Odell Beckham Jr, WR (New York Giants), Kareem Hunt, RB (Kansas City Chiefs), Olivier Vernon, DE (New York Giants), Sheldon Richardson, DT (Minnesota Vikings), Morgan Burnett, S (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Key Offseason Departures: Kevin Zeitler, G (New York Giants), Jabrill Peppers, S (New York Giants), Emmanuel Ogbah, DE (Kansas City Chiefs), Brien Boddy-Calhoun, S (Houston Texans), Breshad Perriman, WR (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: After a 7-8-1 season that saw Hue Jackson, Todd Haley and Gregg Williams given their marching orders and Baker Mayfield break the rookie touchdown passing record the Browns & John Dorsey have spent the offseason building arguably the most talent laden roster in the entire league. This offseason has seen the Browns acquire arguably the best receiver in the league in Odell Beckham Jr, one of the best but most troubled backs in the league in Kareem Hunt, beefed up a defensive line that already featured Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi with the additions of Olivier Vernon & Sheldon Richardson.

The Browns offense has the potential to be one of the best units in the league, Baker Mayfield threw 27 touchdowns in just 13 games last season as a rookie. With a full offseason working as ‘the guy’ in Cleveland it’s fair to expect him to make a leap this season, especially when you look at the talent Dorsey has put around him. Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku as receiving targets, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield…. There isn’t a more talented offensive roster in the league.

The Browns defense isn’t to be laughed at either, Dorsey and his staff have put together a defense that could be every bit as good as the offense. There aren’t too many defensive lines better than the Browns in the league right now, the linebacking group is solid without having a true superstar and now their secondary has a cornerback tandem that could develop into one of the best in the league with rookie second round pick Greedy Williams partnering sophomore Pro Bowler Denzel Ward.

Look Out For: Is it wrong to say the Browns as a whole? A team that went 7-8-1 last year probably shouldn’t be as high on people’s radars as the Browns are but they became one of the most fun teams to watch once Baker Mayfield took over last year and now have a roster full of blue chip talent. This Browns team could go onto win the Super Bowl as early as this year BUT they also have the potential to implode.

As good as Mayfield has been he runs his mouth a lot and could rub his teammates, will Odell Beckham continue to be as divisive as New York media would have you believe he was for the Giants? Can he co-exist with Jarvis Landry? Is Freddie Kitchens up to being a Head Coach after only a handful of games experience as an offensive co-ordinator? Will suspensions for Kareem Hunt and Antonio Callaway hurt in the early part of the season? And will the weight of expectations be too much for the Browns young roster to handle?

Cincinnati Bengals

Draft Selections: Jonah Williams, OT (1.11), Drew Sample, TE (2.52), Germaine Pratt, LB (3.72), Ryan Finley, QB (4.104), Renell Wren, DT (4.125), Michael Jordan, G (4.136), Trayveon Williams, RB (6.182), Deshaun Davis, LB (6.210), Rodney Anderson, RB (6.211), Jordan Brown, CB (7.223)

Key Offseason Additions: John Miller, OG (Buffalo Bills), Kerry Wynn, DT (New York Giants), B.W. Webb, CB (New York Giants)

Key Offseason Departures: Vontaze Burfict, LB (Oakland Raiders), Michael Johnson, DE (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 100-1

Analysis: Has a team had as bad an offseason as the Bengals this offseason? The Bengals FINALLY made a good move in letting Marvin Lewis leave, replacing him with 36-year-old Zac Taylor but since then they have done very little to inspire confidence going into this season.

They spent very little in the offseason, John Miller will likely start at guard for them but he isn’t exactly great. Kerry Wynn and BW Webb were both backups for the Giants and will likely struggle to get into the Bengals rotation in the defensive line and secondary respectively. Many have questioned the quality of the Bengals draft class, which is now under more scrutiny with top pick Jonah Williams likely missing the entirety of the 2019 following surgery on a torn labrum. Star receiver AJ Green suffered ligament damage in a preseason practice session and will now likely miss 6 to 8 weeks, oft-injured speedster John Ross was expected to have a bigger role this year but he’s been out with a hamstring injury since July.

There just isn’t a lot to talk about with the Bengals, their draft was underwhelming, their offseason additions don’t inspire confidence and they’ve suffered injuries to two of their most important players this season. The only real positives for this team is that they do have talented young players and have one of the best running backs in the league in Joe Mixon. This could be a long year.

Look Out For: The Bengals aren’t going to be good in 2019, I know it’s a bit harsh to be so blunt but they play in a division that features the Ravens, Steelers and much improved Browns. In Andy Dalton you could argue they have the worst starting quarterback in the division and a have an unproven 36-year-old at Head Coach, that’s just not a recipe for success in 2019.

2019 Season Prediction

Browns 10-6

Ravens 10-6

Steelers 8-8

Bengals 3-13

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