By Angel L. Quiles Jr.
The Bengals have been good the past three seasons, and have rewarded their quarterback Andy Dalton with a six-year deal worth 115 million dollars. With big play wide receivers A.J. Green and Marvin Jones the Bengals have deep threats that Dalton can fling the ball to. However, can Dalton be consistent this season throwing passes down field? Dalton had 20 interceptions last year, and missed a lot of chances for big play passes. He has worked on his mechanics this year in order to rectify that weakness.
Their defense was great last season and ranked third overall. If defensive coordinator Paul Guenther can continue the success of his predecessor Mike Zimmer, the Bengals will be the favorite to win the division. Nevertheless, that will be predicated on their secondary’s ability to cover receivers, and help against the run.
Head coach Marvin Lewis’s critics could stop chirping their hate this season, and a playoff win could be in the cards. But, that will depend on Dalton, and the continued excellence of their defense.
Owners of the most Super Bowl victories in NFL history, and a fan base more loyal than penguins, the Steelers are focused on redeeming themselves this year. Two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger had one of his most disappointing seasons last year. The loss of his big play wide receiver Mike Wallace didn’t help him at all, and a 27th ranked run game helped sink the Steelers ship.
The defense ranked 13th last season, and looked like a unit who missed their leader James Harrison, who was not resigned. However, their revamped defense looks speedy, and explosive this year. Thanks to defensive end Cameron Heyward who had 47 QB pressures last season, and will be looking to make the pro-bowl.
The Steelers know what it takes to win, and win big in the NFL. Run the football, and have a quarterback who makes smart decisions. This year the Steelers contain a formidable running game with Le’Veon Bell, and LeGarrette Blount. Roethlisberger is a proven champion. Therefore, expect the Steelers to return to being the Steelers this season.
Drama, Drama, Drama has plagued the Ravens this offseason, because of the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal. Rice the Ravens pro-bowl running back will miss the first two games of the season, and that will hurt the team. Rice can catch and run the ball effectively, and gives quarterback Joe Flacco a safety net on check down passes, that now will not be there.
However, Flacco is talented and does a good job throwing the deep ball. Subsequently, with the addition of former Carolina Panthers great Steve Smith, Flacco now has a big play threat underneath. If they can click it will alleviate some of the damage from Rice’s suspension.
Defensively, the Ravens are always intimidating and physical. It is a staple of their defensive culture and led them to the Super Bowl in 2012. Nevertheless, they were undisciplined last year, and gave opposing offenses 1,196 extra yards off of penalties, the most in the NFL. If they can’t control themselves they will miss the playoffs again.
Johnny Football has hit Cleveland, and fans are ready to rock n’ roll, like the hall of fame building that resides in the city. Cleveland will have to wait for the Browns to return to the past glory days of the dog pound. Thank God LeBron has come home.
It’s unfortunate but it is the case. They have lost one of the top three receivers in the game Josh Gordon, to a drug suspension. Manziel didn’t even have a playbook at Texas A&M, and did not look comfortable running a pro style offense. Therefore, the fans may not see him play this season, unless Brian Hoyer gets hurt or is highly inefficient.
There are three bright spots Browns fans should focus on this season. First, is their defense ranked 9th overall last season. Second, is fullback Chris Ogbonnaya. Ogbonnaya has increased his productivity in each of the last three seasons, and should see the ball more under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Lastly, is wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who is adept at making extra yards after the catch. However, don’t expect a playoff run from the Browns this season.
NFC North Prediction
1- Cincinnati Bengals -11-5
2- Pittsburg Steelers -10-6
3- Baltimore Ravens- 7-9
4- Cleveland Browns- 5-11
NFC North Top 10 Fantasy Players
1- Le’Veon Bell- PIT
2- A.J. Green- CIN
3- Giovani Bernard- CIN
4- Antonio Brown- PIT
5- Ben Tate- CLE
6- Torrey Smith- BAL
7- Ray Rice- BAL
8- Jordan Cameron- CLE
9- Steve Smith- CAR
10- Bernard Pierce- BAL