2021 AFC North Predictions(Is it finally the Browns year)?

AFC North Predictions!
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 29: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns during the final preseason NFL game between the Cleveland Browns and the Atlanta Falcons on August 29, 2021 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The AFC North always seems to be a two-horse race, and it will be again, but instead of the Ravens and Steelers battling it out, it will be the Ravens and Browns this time. The Steelers look to be also-rans, and the Bengals look to be, well, they look to be the Bengals. So who wins the North? Let’s take a look?

1) Cleveland Browns 12-5

The browns had a great off=season and acquired pieces they need to make a Super Bowl run. The Browns, in free agency, added safety John Johnson III, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker Anthony Walker, cornerback Troy Hill, and defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Along with those additions, The browns also drafted cornerback Greg Newsome II in the first round. They then got arguably the steal of the draft in round two when he drafted linebacker-hybrid Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

Some people still doubt Baker Mayfield, but you are crazy if you do, the big point here is last year the Browns had a new head coach and offensive coordinator, and they are both back, so continuity should be great for the browns to build off the success they had in the second half of last season. On the defensive side of the ball, the browns should be much improved especially if Jadeveon Clowney can stay healthy; paired with Myles Garrett, the browns should strike fear into all NFL Quarterbacks’ hearts.

2) Baltimore Ravens 11-6

The Ravens will go as far as Lamar Jackson takes them, and trading away Orlando Brown can’t help; now they did add right guard Kevin Zeitler, and former two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Weapons at receiver have also been an issue for the Ravens, and they added Sammy Watkins in the off-season, and then Rashod Bateman (First Round) and Tylan Wallace (Fourth Round) were added via the NFL Draft. So will the ravens actually open up the offense and let Lamar develop? That’s the biggest question to me as we have seen very little progress in Jackson’s game over the last year.

The Ravens are known for defense, and the defense took some hits in the off-season, losing EDGE rushers Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. I think the Ravens will still grab a Wild Card spot, but they will no longer be the best team in this division.

3) Pittsburgh Steelers  8-9

The Steelers still have some pieces, but everything has to fall just right, and Big Ben will have to look more like 30 than the 39-year-old Quarterback he really is. The Offensive line is no longer strength for the Steelers.  The team did sign right guard Joe Haeg but lost Villanueva and center Maurkice Pouncey, who retired after the season. The Steelers drafted Najee Harris, and he looks to be a big-time back, but he is going to have to make a lot of things happen himself behind a below-average offensive line.

The Defense has been the saving grace in Pittsburgh, and while they should still be good, they will not be good enough to save the Steelers season. The Steelers lost Bud Dupree, Tyson Alualu, Vince Williams, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton in free agency. This will be the year the Steelers finally have a below .500 season.

4) Cincinnati Bengals  6-11

Everybody talks about the Bengals offensive weapons, but the biggest weakness may have been the defense last year, and the Bengals made some moves to correct that in the off-season. Cincinnati replaced defensive end Carl Lawson with Trey Hendrickson and cornerback William Jackson with Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton. The Bengals also lost defensive tackle Geno Atkinson via free agency.

The offensive line should be improved but by how much? Jackson Carman was drafted, but he is more of a guard; they will depend on veteran Riley Reif to improve the line.

So the offensive line is better, and the defense will be improved; the one thing that has not been improved is the Head Coach Zac Taylor; he is in over his head and hopefully will be let go at the end of the season. If that happens, the Bengals could be a playoff team by next season. So the talent on the roster seems to be improving, but the owner is still the same.

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