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AFC North Predictions for the 2015 Season
Below are my predictions for the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens: @DEN, @OAK, CIN, @PIT, CLE, @SF, @ARIZ, SD, BYE, JAX, STL, @CLE, @MIA, SEA, KC, PIT, @CIN
Additions: RB Justin Forsett (re-signed), K Justin Tucker (re-signed), DB Kyle Arrington, QB Matt Schaub, DE Chris Canty (re-signed)
Losses: WR Torrey Smith, DT Haloti Ngata (trade with Detroit), DE Pernell McPhee, TE Owen Daniels, WR Jacoby Jones
Cincinnati Bengals: @OAK, SD, @BAL, KC, SEA, @BUF, BYE, @PIT, CLE, HOU, @AZ, STL, @CLE, PIT, @SF, @DEN, BAL
Additions: DE Michael Johnson, LB Rey Maualuga (re-signed), LB A.J. Hawk, G Clint Boling (re-signed), OT Eric Winston (re-signed)
Losses: DT Devon Still, CB Terence Newman
Pittsburgh Steelers: @NE, SF, @STL, BAL, @SD, AZ, @KC, CIN, OAK, CLE, BYE, @SEA, IND, @CIN, DEN, @BAL, @CLE
Additions: QB Michael Vick, RB DeAngelo Williams, DB Will Allen (re-signed), C Doug Legursky
Losses: DC Dick LeBeau, DE Brett Keisel, S Troy Polamalu (retired), OLB Jason Worilds (retired), CB Ike Taylor, CB Brice McCain
Cleveland Browns: @NYJ, TEN, OAK, @SD, @BAL, DEN, @STL, AZ, @CIN, @PIT, BYE, BAL, CIN, SF, @SEA, @KC, PIT
Additions: DB Tramon Williams, DT Randy Starks, WR Dwayne Bowe, WR Brian Hartline, QB Josh McCown, TE Rob Housler, QB/WR Terrelle Pryor
Losses: TE Jorden Cameron, QB Brian Hoyer, CB Buster Skrine, DT Phil Taylor
AFC North End Result: An interesting season lies ahead for the Cincinnati Bengals as they approach year five with QB Andy Dalton. The postseason hasn't been kind to him having totals of 873 passing yards, one touchdown and six interceptions in his four starts. Will this hovering dark cloud that is the lack of a playoff win fade away? There will be a difference of opinions to some but I don't think we'll know this year because the Bengals won't make the playoffs in 2015. They will be this year's underachievers. Outside of the division (AFC North games are almost always a toss up), I think there will be some surprising losses for the Bengals: St. Louis and Houston. This will be the first time Andy Dalton and Head Coach Marvin Lewis don't make the playoffs together. Ultimately, I think that will cost Coach Lewis his job.
When will QB Johnny Manziel play for the Browns this season? A question I have asked myself a few times but probably not as much as the entire city of Cleveland. There seems to be no exact answer, but Manziel was seen throwing the ball in practice on Monday, after not playing in the Browns' final two preseason games. He had a pretty good preseason, and it will be disappointing if he doesn't get playing time. The first four games of the Browns season should at least hold the fans over as I see QB Josh McCown and the defense bring a bit of magic and get the victories. Another three consecutive wins after the bye week should make up some ground for the Browns but then lose three in a row to Seattle and Kansas City (both making the playoff push) and to, posing as the spoiler, Pittsburgh.
Speaking of Pittsburgh, the Steelers would like to start their season against New England on September 10 in better shape who will be without some key players. Center Maurkice Pouncey was placed on IR/Designated For Return List (he would be eligible to come back in Week 9 vs Oakland) and offensive weapons Martavis Bryant and Le'Veon Bell will miss the first four and first two games of the regular season respectively. Until Pouncey comes back, the offensive line will have their hand full with games against Kansas City, Baltimore and St. Louis (predicting all losses for Pittsburgh). The first eight games will be a discomfort for the Steelers as I think they will start 3-5. Retirements by Ike Taylor (will be a good coach for Pittsburgh), Troy Polamalu, Jason Worilds and the departure by long time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau leaves the defense with a bit of uncertainty. The offense will be fine as soon as Le'Veon Bell comes back serving his suspension but the defense will hold Pittsburgh back from contending.
The Baltimore Ravens are my pick to win the AFC North because of the dominance the offensive line and defensive front seven will impose. My only question mark will be how the Ravens secondary play out as the season progresses. I might be crazy thinking that the Ravens will be fine offensively despite the lack of receivers, but re-signing Justin Forsett will bring a sigh of relief, as I expect the Ravens to run the ball even more than last year. A hopeful emergence by rookies Breshad Perriman (who didn't play in the preseason due to a thigh injury) and Maxx Williams will help out Joe Flacco in the passing game. The Ravens will end the season as the only team in the AFC North with double-digit wins as they look to a strong showing in the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens: (11-5) Wins AFC North and Playoff appearance
Pittsburgh Steelers: (9-7)
Cincinnati Bengals: (9-7)
Cleveland Browns: (8-8)