Each offseason, every fan of every team believes their respective squad will now reach the post-season, finishing anywhere between 11-5 to 9-7 in the regular season. But I’m here to rain on AFC North fans dreams.
The Ravens won’t be forgotten in this post; in fact, they’re first. The Ravens have multiple areas of weakness, but the fatal flaw will be the offensive line. Yes, the team picked up a number one receiving option and Joe Flacco is back to full health. Problem is, the offensive coordinator last year didn’t utilize the strong running game, and now two pieces of the line are gone. Big name right tackle, Ricky Wagner, signed with the Detroit Lions. Jeremy Zuttah, albeit an average starting center, also left. This leaves Baltimore with two big holes to fill, and neither have been addressed thus far. Can’t do anything on the offensive side of the ball with no running game and checkdowns. We’ve all watched it fail time and time again.
A good draft landed the Bengals two top skill position prospects. The streak of lightning that is John Ross, as well as Joe Mixon. Paired with A.J. Green, this Bengals are capable of scoring points. While the depth chart on all offensive skill positions are loaded, the five man unit protecting their quarterback, Andy Dalton, looks its weakest in years. Three time Pro-Bowler, Andrew Whitworth, left for ‘greener pastures’ with the Los Angeles Rams. Whitworth was someone capable of stone-walling Terrell Suggs; losing such a talent is painful. Metaphorical for the team, literal and physical for Andy. Not only was this a big loss, their ‘star-in-the-making’ guard, Kevin Zeitler, also left in free agency, signing with the Cleveland Browns.
The absence of the two will be felt. Out of 168 games, Whitworth started 164. In 72 games, Zeitler started 71. Undoubtedly, this can be the Bengals greatest flaw, and teams will look to expose their struggles early and often.
Competent management, a good coach, and a roster blown up and rebuilt through youth and good contracts? We’re watching you, Cleveland. But this won’t be your year. Oh no, not with the state of the AFC North, and not with your, as per usual, quarterback situation.
Reminder, Brock Osweiler is in contending for the starting quarterback role. Yes, you have prospects in Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer, but they should be fighting for it against one another. They should be fighting for first and second role. But they’re not, it’s a three-way dogfight for the starting role. In the end, I don’t suspect it matters much. It’s been over a decade and a half since the Browns had a quarterback that started all 16 games.
Alright, I kid, or at least half-kid. Best jokes have some truth to them, after all.
In all seriousness, the Steelers won the AFC North last season after a herculean effort by Antonio Brown on the goal line. A damn fine game, but a heart-breaker.
This season, the Steelers aren’t perfect. They weren’t last year, but they still aren’t this year. The secondary is still porous, and the rest of the AFC North built on their receiving options. Six games against divisional rivals whom bolstered their receivers, while your secondary didn’t pick up big names to balance the deficit. It’s not the biggest weakness in the division, but it can be their downfall in the 2017 season.