Due to website issues, things are out of control here at The Sideline Report. So much so, that we just didn’t want the predictions to end. Maybe your team finally gets the top spot. If not, there will be participation trophies for all four teams.
We currently have four authors on the North page, and this article combines Jack Crawford’s and Wernicke Korsakoff’s predictions.
Ravens – 11-5 – AFCN Divisional Champion
Bengals – 10-6 – Wildcard
Steelers – 8-8
Browns – 5-11
Balance is key this season, and the Ravens and Bengals are the most balanced teams in the division. Neither team sports “the greatest” offense or defense, but both are adequate, and have no glaring weaknesses. The difference comes down to the pressures of the playoff chase, which will revive lingering doubts about the Bengals until they prove they can succeed under pressure. The edge defensively goes to Baltimore…but not by much. These teams could swap records, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone.
While the Steelers have a superlative offense, it won’t be intact on the field, barring further injury, until week 5, and even then, the loss of C Maurkice Pouncey will sting more than most fans are willing to admit. The defense has replaced its old faces with younger, less-experienced ones, so expecting improvement this season is probably being a tad too optimistic. Plus or minus one game, depending on the general health of the team in November and December.
To be cliche, the Browns will go as far as (insert quarterback here) will take them. Since neither Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown is expected to be much of a difference maker, I suspect it won’t be a great distance. The Browns will play a lot of close games, thanks to an excellent defense. They just won’t win many of them. 4-6 wins at best.
Ravens: 10-6, AFCN Champions
The Ravens need their young receiving talent to start contributing meaningfully right from the start. If Justin Forsett can prove last year wasn’t a fluke, it buys the offense a little bit more time to find its stride.
Steelers: 9-7, Wild Card hunt with Miami, SD, KC
The Steelers’ defense was a known question mark heading into the season. The offense now starts the season without Bell, Bryant and Pouncey. The Steelers tend to start slowly, and missing offensive weapons won’t help in that regard.