Only an idiot would make such a claim that the Browns will win their division, right? Well, let me tell you something. Every year, many things happen in the NFL that people don’t expect. I mean, who do you know that told you that Marques Colston would have about the same numbers as Randy Moss and Donte’ Stallworth…combined? How many higher-ups, that make more money than you and I ever will, uttered the words, “Let’s pass on that Tom Brady guy,” that draft year? How much money did Vegas make during the first year the Carolina Panthers were in the league? Speaking of highly paid people that goofed up, how many guys with an aquatic mammal on their shirt had to turn in said-shirt after signing Culpepper instead of Brees? Speaking of Brees, who thought the Saints would have such a successful year last year? Most “experts” thought they’d be one of the worst teams in the NFC! If my little sister were to write about her NFL predictions, she’d say that the Colts and the Bears have a good shot at returning to the Super Bowl. She’d say that LT is the most talented running back in the NFL. She’d say that Michael Vick is an immensely talented quarterback, but needs to improve on accuracy. Anyone can read the articles and regurgitate information, but in the NFL, games are played on the field, and you have to read between the yard-lines to make a truly bold prediction like this.
The AFC North has often been referred to as arguably the toughest division in football. I agree for the most part. The Steelers won the Super Bowl a few seasons ago, the Ravens have one of the top defenses in all of football, and the Bengals have one of the top offenses in football. Well, that’s three out of four teams, potentially with something to play for, but where does that leave the Browns? Last year, they had a terrible offense, a mediocre defense, and a fair special teams unit. How has that changed? Let’s look at this…I’ve rated each offensive position and the defensive unit on a scale from one to four, four being the highest in their division, based on my predictions for how successful they will be this year, not on how they did last year.
4 Bengals- Palmer is tough, and good, and has weapons.
3 Browns- Frye is good. Not great, but good. He tried too hard last year, like Bret Favre. He made some bad decisions on the run, like Joey Harrington. He had no line help, like David Carr. I think that, with an improved line, he can be better than Trent Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl. Anderson is huge and has had some statistical success, and Quinn has top 5 in the draft talent, and has experience playing in an NFL-like system. Any one of these guys can be a quality, care-taker quarterback with bonus potential. And, they all have back-ups pushing them.
2 Steelers- Big Ben showed last season that his rookie success was a fluke. While he is a decent quarterback, he can’t succeed when the weight is on his shoulders. He is still gun-shy after his accident, and there are no quality back-ups in Pittsburgh.
1 Ravens- While McNair WAS a great QB, there are too many other factors (injury history, age, lack of quality WRs) that come in to play here.
4 Ravens- Assuming an injury doesn’t fall McGahee, he will be the most successful this year.
3 Bengals- Rudi is good, not great.
2 Steelers- “Fast” Willie Parker is just that…fast. A quality running back, but will not make teams lose focus planning for him.
1 Browns- Jamal is still younger than you think (27), and has something to prove, and an improved line. In the end, he could move up a spot, or even two here.
4 Bengals- Johnson and T.J. are tough to beat.
3 Browns- Joe and Braylon could be studs if given the chance.
2 Steelers- Ward is a top-notch wide-out, and his running-mate, Santonio Holmes, make a nice duo.
1 Ravens- Mason and whomever aren’t all that.
4 Browns- K2 is the real deal. Assuming his surgery went well, his season will, too.
3 Ravens- Heap is very good.
2 Steelers- Heath Miller showed some flashes last year, but still needs improvement.
1 Bengals- Don’t use the TE much.
4 Browns- No, seriously, the Browns. Bentey claims he’ll be ready, but even if not, Fraley filled in nicely last season. They also got the best OL available in the draft in Joe Thomas, and the best free agent lineman in Steinbach from the Bengals. They can use Kevin Shaffer, last year’s free agent signing from Atlanta, somewhere, and given time to gel, this might be one of the NFL’s best lines, up from one of the worst last year.
3 Steelers- Former top-notch line here, nothing to write home about, here.
2 Bengals- Pretty decent, see above, minus Steinbach.
1 Ravens- Could be worse, aging.
4 Ravens- They are still one of the NFL’s best. They might be good enough to cover the Cleveland wide-outs, and even make it tough on Winslow, but Jamal Lewis won’t let them stick too close.
3 Steelers- Not exactly the “Steel Curtain,” but still respectable. They do not, however, have the defensive backs to cover the Brown’s or Bengal’s wide receivers.
2 Browns- Better than the Steelers? Could be. This year it’ll be close. A few additions, a healthy backfield, and an improved offense make the Browns a much better defense.
1 Bengals- Expect lots of turnovers, lots of points given up. No way can they cover the Brown’s wide-outs, or Kellen Winslow, Jr.
Now, to add each teams point totals:
Interesting, huh? Now, I’m not making any guarantees, but wait and see…and remember, anyone can predict that Peyton will be among the best passers in the NFL this year.