Tag Archive | "2014-15 AFC North predictions"

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: AFC North

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Will this be the Bengals year to go deep into the playoffs?  Will the Ravens rebound after a down season following their victory in  Super Bowl XLVII?  Will Johnny Manziel resurrect the Browns?  Stay tuned for 2014-15 excitement in the AFC North!

 

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

 

The Bengals postseason struggles are well documented, but their regular season capabilities are not in question.  Andy Dalton is now paid like a big money quarterback and should continue his improvement in the league.  Despite the wealth of quality wide receivers in the league, A.J. Green is without a doubt the second best behind Calvin Johnson (and may take that throne from him at some point).  Giovani Bernard will have to build on his respectable rookie season at running back, and Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith make the offensive line formidable.  The defense on this team is very solid.  The defensive line at both the end positions (Carlos Dunlap/Wallace Gilberry) and tackle (Geno Atkins/Domata Peko) make this unit arguably the best in football.  Rey Maualuga is solid at middle linebacker, and the secondary is deep and talented.  Leon Hall is a shutdown corner, and Dre Kirkpatrick is tall (6’2”) with long arms that make him the ideal size for a corner in the league.  First round pick Darqueze Dennard adds to this unit’s depth, and while at this stage of his career he is more of a ball hawk, Terrance Newman can play pick six a lot in nickel situations.  Reggie Nelson and Taylor Mays are big hitters at safety as well.  Playoff performance remains to be seen with this team, the regular season should not be a problem

 

Baltimore Ravens (9-7)*

 

The Ravens will look to bounce back following a disappointing title defense last season.  The offense begins and ends with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.  Torrey Smith is a quality receiver but doesn’t put the fear of God into defenses.  Steve Smith, Sr. enters after his long tenure in Carolina and is a fierce competitor.  His age (35), however, brings question marks.  Ray Rice will have to put his offseason domestic issues behind him and has to be consistent all season.  Good drafting and defense has been the hallmark of this team for many years and that continues into this season.  C.J. Mosley out of Alabama will bring some needed youth to this defense.  Haloti Ngata is premiere at the nose tackle position.  Jimmy Smith continues to improve at cornerback and has premiere size (6’2” 210) to match up with the likes of an A.J. Green.  Baltimore is well coached, has enough talent and experience, and seems to always find ways to win games.  Expect a bounce back season from the Ravens this year.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

 

It’s hard to think of a better run organization than the Steelers.  The quality of this organization has disguised the fact that Pittsburgh has been in a rebuilding phase for the past two seasons.  Ben Roethlisberger is still an upper-tier quarterback who is tough as nails and can make plays out of nothing.  LeGarrette Blount is a nice pick up at running back and along with Le’Veon Bell gives the Steelers a stable of physical running backs on offense.  Pittsburgh has some age on defense especially in their secondary.  Ike Taylor (34) is a big corner who can match up with other big receivers in the league (and the likes of A.J. Green in the division).  Troy Polamalu (33) has been injury prone of late and his best years are likely behind him.  Along with fellow safety Will Allen (32), the secondary has question marks.  Pittsburgh is well coached with Mike Tomlin and Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau.

 

Cleveland Browns (5-11)

 

With all the hype surrounding top draft choice Johnny Manziel, the problems with this team have been overlooked.  Manziel will not even start over Brian Hoyer (who is by no means a world beater), and last season’s breakout star receiver Josh Gordon is facing a season-long suspension that is still in appeal.  Miles Austin has not demonstrated the ability to stay on the field during his past couple of seasons in Dallas.  Joe Thomas is a top five left tackle and may be the best in the league.  Defensively the secondary should be strong this season.  Joe Haden is an elite player, and first round pick at cornerback Justin Gilbert along with the addition of Donte Whitner at safety will shore up the back end of this defense.  Despite having two of the best at their positions on both sides of the ball (Thomas/Haden), Cleveland has given no indication the last few seasons that they are prepared to start moving into contention.  The more Cleveland struggles the more the calls for Manziel will come which can cause dissention within team ranks.

 

 

*Denotes Wild Card Team. 

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