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AFC North - Looking Ahead

After one quarter of the 2008 NFL season is complete (except for the Ravens and Texans), we take a look at the AFC North standings and the next quarter of the season to predict where they will be at the halfway point. The Ravens will not have a break for the rest of the season and will catch up in games played over the next two months. Here are the current standings in the AFC North:

Pittsburgh 3 1 0 .750 77 58 Won 1 2-0 3-0
Baltimore 2 1 0 .667 65 43 Lost 1 2-1 2-1
Cleveland 1 3 0 .250 46 78 Won 1 1-2 1-2
Cincinnati 0 4 0 .000 52 87 Lost 4 0-2 0-3

Starting at the top of the division, here are the Steelers next four weeks' games:

                         @ Jacksonville, BYE, @ Cincinnati, hosting NY Giants

I see the Jaguars hard hitting defense continuing to brutalize Roethlisberger and their running game overwhelming the Steelers defense, as good as they've been. I also like Jags QB David Garrard's scrambling ability to contribute to the Steelers defeat. The Cincinnati game could be a trap game for Pittsburgh if Carson Palmer is healthy, although I'll put this in the win column for the Steelers. Even with the home game, I still see the Giants beating the Steelers, as they've been great on the road the past couple of seasons and have both the offense and defense to win at Heinz Field. Therefore, I'm adding a win and two losses to the Steelers record by the end of week eight.

The Ravens next four games are as follows:

                     hosting Tennessee, @ Indy, @ Miami, hosting Oakland

I'm looking for a rebound win over the previously undefeated Titans in front of a loud home crowd, a loss at Indy, and wins on the road in Miami (I'll be there rooting for them in my first ever Ravens road trip, other than SB35) and a win over the Raiders. That's 3 wins and a loss over the next four games for the Ravens.

The Browns next four are as follows:

                    BYE, hosting NY Giants (on MNF), @ Washington, @ Jacksonville

Ouch, other than their BYE week, I see them laying a bagel and going 0-for, including losing at home on MNF. That's three more losses in an already disappointing season after such promising preseason expectations.

The winless Bengals are up next and it doesn't look to get any better. Their next four are as follows:

                    @ Dallas, @ NY Jets, hosting Pittsburgh, @ Houston

The first three are looking pretty bleak and although I am hoping that they catch the Steelers napping, I'm looking at three tough games and most likely losses. The last of the four games is at the Texans, but as bad as the Bengals have looked, there's no way I can predict a win on the road, even against the Texans. That's another four winless games, making the Bengals the disappointment of the season along with their Ohio neighbors from Cleveland.

That would make the standings in the AFC North after week eight look like this:

Baltimore 5 2 0
Pittsburgh 4 3 0
Cleveland 1 6 0
Cincinnati 0 8 0


Seeing the Ravens at the top of the AFC North at the end of eight weeks makes the loss of Monday night's game a little more palatable. In addition, we get the chance to exact revenge on the Steelers in week 15 in Baltimore. Hopefully, that game will have definite implications on the division standings as we fight for the title of AFC North Division Champs and postseason football!