No Sleep Till Football

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2016 AFC NORTH PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 Computer Hope Predicted # of Wins: 12-13. The Steelers ranked 4th in the NFL last year in points scored with Le’Veon Bell playing in just 6 games. Bell is suspended for the first 3 games of the season, but if Pittsburgh gets Bell for 13 full games, then you can only guess they’ll be a top-5 offense once again with the potential to be better than last year. The offense comes back completely intact except for losing Martavis Bryant to suspension & Heath Miller to retirement. Ladarius Green replaces Miller at TE and that could be an upgrade if Green can figure out a way to remain healthy during the season which is a big if. Defensively the Steelers bring back almost the entire unit intact. Pittsburgh ranked 11th in points allowed last year, but the defense was always perceived to be a bit behind the offense. The upside for the Steelers is that the defense is so young and talented, that it has quite a bit of room to improve. Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones and Stephon Tuitt could all get a lot better & I’m excited to see what Tyler Matakevich can do! It’s hard to imagine the Steelers not being the front-runners when it comes the North. More Le’Veon Bell and the defense getting experience. They’ll be tough to handle.
#2 Computer Hope Predicted # of Wins: 10-11. In games Andy Dalton started & finished, the Bengals were 10-2. Dalton was taking a big leap last year in his overall development when he went down with an injury. If Dalton picks up where he left off, I think he continues his growth which showed in an increased completion % and fewer interceptions. There aren’t a lot of changes on offense but Cincy did lose both Marvin Jones & Mohamed Sano at WR. AJ Green will have new running mates this year in rookie Tyler Boyd & Brandon LaFell. I really like Boyd’s upside so Dalton might have a new toy. A key for Cincinnati is keeping TE Tyler Eifert healthy. He has the ability to change games like Growkowski does for New England. Defensively the Bengals are a lot better as a whole than the sum of their parts. DT Geno Atkins is the ELITE level player on this unit & he is the straw that stirs the drink. DE Carlos Dunlap at 13 sacks last season. Adding Karlos Dansby & a healthy Vontaze Burfict should improve the defense. I’m looking forwad to seeing what rookie Andrew Billings provides up front. The Bengals ranked 2nd in the league in points allowed. I don’t think that repeats but Cincinnati should field a top-10 defense again.
#3 Computer Hope Predicted # of Wins: 8-9. Joe Flacco has somewhat become a lightning rod for debate given how 2015 turned out for Baltimore, but in reality let’s look at last year as an aberration. Before last season, Flacco was 72-40 as a starter, had never had a losing season, made the playoffs in 6 of his first 7 seasons, always won at least 1 game in the playoffs & won the Super Bowl in 2012. By those metrics alone one would think Flacco is ELITE. Now we are wondering if he’s better than Nick Foles? Baltimore needs to reset. Getting Flacco, Justin Forsett & Steve Smith healthy is a good start. Mike Wallace should be a help & Crockett Gillmore showed adequate at TE. Age/Injuries are a factor here, but Flacco has ALWAYS won. Let’s put the breaks on the hyperbole. Defensively what really separates this defense is its lack of star power from the dominant Ravens defenses of past years. It doesn’t have to stay that way. A healthy & motivated Terrell Suggs changes the defense quite a bit. There is some upside to the D-Line & bringing in Eric Weddle to the secondary should help. Baltimore isn’t as good as they used to a few years ago, but they aren’t as bad as they were in 2015 either. I think 8-10 wins is a big improvement.
#4 Computer Hope Predicted # of Wins: 1-3. The sabermetricians came in to take the Browns over & you saw evidence from the 2016 NFL Draft they are definitely valuing quantity and trying to remake the entire team up via low cost investments through young players. What else can you do but sit back and watch? Offensively I think the most interesting thing this year will be watching the development of WR Corey Coleman and seeing if QB Cody Kessler can get any snaps under center at QB. Coleman has ELITE level playmaking abilty & I’m curious if Kessler can make the transition to the NFL. Defensively, the Browns did some really interesting things by drafting edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah as a potential running mate for Paul Kruger. DE Carl Nassib is also a very intriguing player as a 3-4 DE with a lot of pass rushing ability. Young LBs Nate Orchard, Scooby Wright, Joe Schobert & Christian Kirksey are also worth watching to see if they can pan out. Joe Haden returns to CB and there are also other young players in the secondary. More than anything Cleveland is interesting if just for the young kids. They might not win more than a couple of games this year, but I think they’ll be worth tuning in for to see if the young guys play well.
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August 21, 2016 - Posted by | AFC, AFC North, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, Predictions, Previews

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