2016 AFC North Preview

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The Pittsburgh Steelers won the division, but the Cincinnati Bengals injuring all of their best players put a halt on any real possibility of making a legitimate Super Bowl run. This season, if the Steelers’ big guns of Big Ben, Bell, and star wide receiver Antonio Brown are healthy, the Steelers are going to do damage on offense. My only real concerns are health and consistency from their defense.

There are times when I think the Steelers play good defense. Then they have moments where they are pretty bad on that side of the ball, especially the secondary. The Steelers are a major threat to the Patriots and in fact I think they are the only threat as of right now to New England to win the AFC.

The Cincinnati Bengals embarrassed themselves at the end of last year’s usual opening round defeat against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sure, the Bengals are talented and will remain a competitive team, but they lack the discipline and mental toughness needed to be a real contender. There is no way Head Coach Marvin Lewis should still have a job in Cincinnati after that playoff loss – enough is enough. He clearly has no control over his roster and I question whether or not the Bengals can rebound from that pathetic playoff loss to be a threat in 2016.

Quarterback Andy Dalton had a great year last year and it was a shame he got hurt when he was close to silencing the critics who say he can’t win a playoff game. Unfortunately for him and the Bengals, Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson left me wondering whether the Bengals offense regresses or not. Talent isn’t the issue with the Bengals, as they are one of the more complete teams in the league. The biggest question I have is whether they have what it takes to win the big games.

The Steelers’ arch rival, the Ravens, will look to avoid the injury bug in 2016. Last season they were hit hard and through that, they were able to be competitive. I think a healthy Joe Flacco, a good run game, and a good defense gives the Ravens a good shot at the Wild Card. They could compete for the division, but I have questions as to whether or not they have enough play makers. How much does Steve Smith have left? 

The Ravens signed wide receiver Mike Wallace, but he has not been much of a factor since leaving the Steelers. Health, ability to make big plays on offense, and playing good old Ravens defense are what will determine Baltimore’s fate.

The preview for the past decade for the Cleveland Browns has pretty much been the same – awful. I like Hue Jackson as a coach, but wins are going to have to come through time. The Browns signed RGIII to be their starting quarterback. If Griffin can stay healthy and can get his head on straight to be a better leader, RGIII could prove to be the franchise QB the Browns have been searching for.

Let’s not forget the last time RGIII was 100% healthy. He carried a mediocre Redskins team to the playoffs in his rookie year. Can he bring back that magic to Cleveland? The Browns appear to be making the right steps towards a proper rebuild, but is Cleveland’s front office willing to be patient?

Because Cleveland is not going to win 8-10 games next season, it is going to take some time but I think they have the right guy to lead them in Hue Jackson. The Browns are rebuilding, so realistically no more than 5 wins will come this season.

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About Nathan Johnson

Nathan Johnson is a sports management/communications major at the University of Tennessee aspiring to be a college football insider. He grew up in Iowa having a strong passion for the Big Ten Conference.