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2016 NFL Projections: The AFC North

Ben Roethlisberger, Thomas WelchPittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have endured a transition period, and are ready to assert themselves to the top of the AFC North.

Ben Roethlisberger remains an elite quarterback, though durability has been a bit of a problem. He’ll get a little more protection this season with the return of center Maurkice Pouncey, who missed all of 2015 with an ankle injury.

Ben has a tremendous amount of the depth at the running back position to support him. Le’Veon Bell is a top-five talent at the position when healthy/not suspended, but even if Bell misses more time for either reason, veteran DeAngelo Williams is more than capable of stepping in.

The team’s depth at wide receiver has taken a hit with Martavious Bryant’s suspension, but the club still has elite wideout Antonio Brown, and they’re hopeful that young players Marcus Wheaton and Sammie Coates will take great strides forward in their development.

The Pittsburgh defense has been a disappointment in recent years. The team has invested a great deal of high draft picks into the unit over the last five years (Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, Artie Burns all in round one, Sean Davis, Senquez Golson in round two) and the team still has a squad that finished in the bottom 10 in total defense. The top is that much of this young talent will take big steps forward this season.

Projected Finish: 11-5, 1st Place

Cincinnati Bengals

The continued employment of head coach Marvin Lewis is one of the most baffling mysteries in the NFL.

After holding the position for 14 years (!!!!), Lewis has failed to achieve a single playoff victory with an 0-7 record (!!!!).

Andy Dalton comes off of one of the best seasons of his career, throwing for 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Whether or not Dalton is able to continue to keep his turnovers down without offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is to be determined.

Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard make for one of the better thunder and lightning tandems in the league. Hill was a bit of a disappointment from his rookie season, but still found the endzone 11 times. Bernard gained over 1,000 total yards from scrimmage, and gives the offense a constant home-run threat.

A.J. Green is as consistent as they come at the wide receiver position, coming off of another 1,200-yard, 10-touchdown campaign. Mohammed Sanu left the team in free agency, and will be replaced by Brandon LaFell, who is two years removed from a 70-catch season with the Patriots. Tight end Tyler Eifert caught 13 touchdowns a year ago, but was injured in the Pro Bowl and may not start the season.

Cincinnati’s defense took a hit in the offseason, losing safety Reggie Nelson to free agency. Nelson led the team with eight interceptions, and provided strong leadership. The team still has a formidable pass rush, anchored by Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, who combined for nearly 25 sacks a year ago. The Bengals continue to invest high picks at the corner position, adding William Jackson to a group that has also spent top picks on Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard over the last three years.

The Bengal defense will still be the backbone of this team, but with Hue Jackson now in Cleveland, expect Dalton and the entire offense to regress, expect the Bengals to fall short of the playoffs, and expect the Lewis era to finally come to a close.

Projected Finish: 9-7, 2nd Place

Baltimore Ravens

Few teams were ravaged by the injury bug harder than the Baltimore Ravens last season.

Baltimore lost franchise quarterback Joe Flacco, top receiver Steve Smith, starting running back Justin Forsett, and elite pass rusher Terrell Suggs to season-ending injuries. These injuries not only ruined last season for the Ravens, but may also impact the club’s success this year as well.

Joe Flacco’s knee reportedly has responded well to the treatment it has received, but it may take him another year before he truly gets back to where he was before the injury. But even if Flacco is capable of performing at a high level this season, there just isn’t much reason to be optimistic about the Ravens’ offense. Steve Smith will always be as ferocious as a competitor as there is, but coming off of a serious injury at his age, he can’t be counted on to do much. Mike Wallace could surprise with a change of scenery, but this will be his third team in as many years.

The Ravens’ defense still finished ranked eighth in the league in total defense, but they didn’t generate many turnovers. Baltimore intercepted only six passes a year ago, a number that they hope will increase dramatically. Linebacker C.J. Mosely is an emerging leader, and the team hopes a return of Suggs along with veteran Elvis Dumervill will lead to more sacks than they got a year ago.

Baltimore just doesn’t have enough young, explosive talent on either side of the ball to get back into the playoff picture. This is a year for them to get Flacco back on track, and maybe develop a couple of young pieces for the future.

Projected Finish: 7-9, 3rd Place

Cleveland Browns

Once again, the Cleveland Browns are pressing the reset button.

The Browns are on their fourth head coach in five years, Mike Pettine is out and former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is in.

Cleveland started their rebuild by making several draft day trades to stockpile high draft picks to speed up their process over the next few seasons.

Jackson has a history of bringing out the best in talented offensive players, and the Browns hope that he’ll be able to have that same effect on some of the players that they’ve brought in.

Robert Griffin enters the season as the starting quarterback after failing in Washington. Griffin has tremendous athletic ability, but has been plagued by injuries and erratic play. The Browns spent their first-round pick on wideout Corey Coleman, and also will have Josh Gordon return to the fold after a lengthy suspension.

Defensively, the Browns are still struggling to acquire quality talent. Joe Haden is still considered one of the league’s best corners, but his health is a question going into the season. First-round picks Justin Gilbert and Barkevious Mingo have been disappointments and set the team back.

Cleveland is still in the basement of this division, but with a high number of future picks coming their way, the future may finally look bright for this franchise with Jackson at the controls.

Projected Finish: 6-10, 4th Place

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Posted by on Aug 17 2016. Filed under BREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News, NFL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

15 Comments for “2016 NFL Projections: The AFC North”

  1. No Mention of Ravens injured WR and Top Pick of the 2015 Draft Breshad Perriman, who has been unable to see the field yet and still isn’t ready yet

    Mike Wallace does one thing well and that’s run the Go-Route in which Flacco throws a great Deep Ball so he may have a comeback year in him.. Wallace has always been shy of Contact though and playing in the AFC North versus aggressive CB’s like the Bengals,Browns & Steelers..Playing alongside with another headstrong ego like Steve Smith may present some issues during the Season if he thinks he’s not seeing the ball enough…
    Watch for Raven Rookie RB Kenneth Dixon of Louisiana Tech…

    • Steve Smith isn’t starting Paul…..Kamar Aiken is…..

      • Not for ong my friend… Steve Smith just passed his Physical a few hours ago and will start Practicing over the Weekend… In 3-4 Weeks Time, He will be a Starter for the Ravens …

        • Maybe….but not over Aikens, but Mike Wallace….

          • Mike Wallace will not be a Starter unless other Players are hurt
            Steve Smith did not rehab the last 10 Months to be a Backup or a Rotational Player as he’s one of the most competitive Players in the NFL
            Mike Wallace is happy just to be on a Team and collecting a paycheck and will likely play 15-20 Snaps a game

            • LMFAO

              Mike Wallace wont be a starter and only play 15-20 snaps. HAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA

              Werent you just telling me how much you knew about the league as a whole?

              Look Wallace is starting and if anything Steve Smith will see limited snaps. i dont care what his track record is he is 37 years old and is coming off a double rupture of his Achilles less than 10 months ago. his wife said his Achilles looked like shredded chicken. a 26 year old isnt returning to form in under a year from that let alone a 37 year old.

              • Its still Pre-Season Chump.. Steve Smith just was activated off the PUP list
                Mike Wallace is nothing but a Rotational Player/WR for the Ravens.. He’s Soft,He Doesn’t Block and Won’t go over the middle .He is strictly a Deep Threat for the Fly and Go Routes… Are you telling me Henski that your going by Depth Charts Released in August as who the Starters are going to be ? Then your more of an Ass and Clueless than I thought.. Mike Wallace over Steve Smith . Your an Idiot…

              • let the white trash trucker out paul, atta boy!

                soft, doesnt block, doesnt go over the middle, strictly a deep threat. lmfao sounds like flaccos favorite target ever – torrey smith. im not going by depth charts you imbecile, can you not read? im going by what i wrote about steve smiths injury yaidiot

            • e’s coming off a major injury, and he is much older now.

              If he is healthy, I ‘ll take Steve Smith all day long, but he is far from what he used to be. My point is one of those starting spots will be Kamar Aiken, who, I believe was their leading receiver last year.

              • Steve Smith had 46 Catches and 670 Yards last Season in 7 Games and was on Pace for 90 Catch 1,400 Yard Season..

                Aiken ended up with 75 Catches for 940 Yards in 16 Games (58 of those Receptions were after Steve Smith was Injured)

                Mike Wallace is not even in the same conversation as these 2 Receivers

              • Look stop being a blockhead and not understanding who Steve smith is today. He’s 37 coming off A double rupture of his Achilles 9 months ago. He will be limited without a doubt. Steves a legend on the field , in the trash talking game and in the community. No denying he is part of a dying bread and an absolute warrior but I’d be stunned if he can catch 60 balls this year and even more stunned if he is playing more than 60% of the snaps.

              • I know your expertise is analyzing box scores and commenting on games you don’t watch and live blogging non eagles games on a Eagles site but do some research on medical stuff once in a while.

              • I understand that Buddy Paul, but you can’t expect that he will be able to get anything above, and beyond pedestrian after this last injury, and at his age…..

                Aiken is arguably their best receiver this year whether Steve Smith starts or not.

  2. AFC North Standings
    Steelers – 11 – 5
    Bengals – 10 – 6
    Ravens – 9 – 7
    Browns – 5- 11

    Steelers lose to the Patriots in the AFC Championship

  3. 3rd & 8 and we get a 0 yard throw from bradturd gross

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