Wednesday, September 07, 2011

AFC North Preview

As I see it, this division breaks down to a couple of two-team races.

The Bengals and Browns are battling for third place, with the loser finishing last.  The Steelers and hated Ravens are battling for first place, with the loser finishing second.

As far as the first "race" is concerned, I think the Browns finish on top.  They seem more together, they have more talent, and they have a better owner.  Also, they have the cross-state rivalry with the Bengals and the one-sided rivalry with the Steelers.  The games are far more important to them than they are to the other team.  They're more important to the fans -- who still exist in Cleveland, which is surprising -- and the fans will show up, with a number of Browns faithful probably making the trip to Cincinnati for a road game.

Everyone in the AFC North gets to play the same, cushy schedule against the NFC West and the AFC South, which, for the time being, is minus Peyton Manning and has two rebuilding teams in the Titans and the Jaguars.  The two teams on the bottom half of the standings could take advantage of the soft schedule and bring the general record of the division up in the process.  But... there will probably be some Cardinals-Browns and 49ers-Bengals games later in the season that are only relevant for fantasy purposes.

For the other race in the division, that is a more complicated question.  Since the start of the 2008 season -- the beginning of the John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco Era -- the hated Ravens are 32-16 and the Steelers are 33-15.  (Side Note: Given John Harbaugh's success, at what point do we start referring to Jim Harbaugh as "John Harbaugh's Brother"?  Jim will, no doubt, crash and burn in San Francisco as a former college coach moving to a broken franchise with weak owners.  Once Jim starts to fail, this movement needs to start.)  The Steelers have two division titles and two playoff appearances, the hated Ravens have won zero division titles, but have been to the playoffs three times.  Baltimore wants to get to the Super Bowl and the Steelers are in the way.  In order to get where they need to get, the hated Ravens need to knock the Steelers out.

When the lockout ended, Baltimore cut Willis McGahee, Kelly Gregg, Todd Heap, and Derrick Mason.  I thought that they were purging their roster and starting a rebuilding process.  Then I realized that it was 2011 and not 2008 and that the hated Ravens were trying to cut some dead weight.  The Steelers effectively lost Flozell Adams and Max Starks, but the offensive line has looked at least equivalent this preseason.   The teams are basically even.

It will come down to Joe Flacco versus Ben Roethlisberger this season.  History says that we should back Roethlisberger.  Flacco did a good job with a marginal receiving corps last season.  This season, the team subtracted Mason and added Lee Evans.  Their top two guys are Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans.  Once again, it's 2011 and not 2008.

I think the Steelers and hated Ravens will beat common opponents and that the Steelers will get the best of Baltimore.

Thus, with a 12-4 record, the Steelers win the division.  I think they get the better of the hated Ravens over the course of the season.   I think that the difference will be Ben Roethlisberger over Joe Flacco.

For anyone that takes issue with this prediction, I would like to remind you that the name of this blog is "Steelers N At" and not "Ravens Rule, Hon!"  I try to remove myself from my fandom as much as possible, but sometimes emotion and team loyalty get in the way.

Official Predictions:

  1. Steelers (12-4)
  2. Hated Ravens (11-5)
  3. Cleveland Browns (7-9)
  4. Bengals (5-11)


  1. Wow, mine are identical (except that I have the Bungles at 1-15)

  2. Yes. There is serious potential for Bungles suckitude this year.

  3. the least you can do is call them the bungles officially (like the hated R's).