Hello again football fans, in what is my seventh installment of breaking down the NFL, I will be taking a look at the AFC North. I will be looking at each teams offense, defense, and providing my prediction for the AFC North in the 2013 season.
- Offense: Joe Flacco returns for the defending Super Bowl Champions at quarterback. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce form a potent tandem at running back. Torrey Smith will be at one receiver spot, while the Ravens will look at Jacoby Jones and several others on the other side due to Anquan Bolden going to the 49ers in the offseason. Dennis Pitta will be at tight end and may be targeted a little more in the passing game to replace Bolden’s production.
- Defense: The defending champs are going through a massive face lift on the defensive side of the ball. Gone are stalwarts Ray Lewis and Ed Reed but this may be a case of addition by subtraction. They will miss the leadership but not the play of those two players. The ravens will line up in their familiar 3-4 defense. They will have Haloti Ngata at nose with Chris Canty and Arthur Jones at the ends. The linebackers will be Jameel McClain and Arthur Brown inside, with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil outside. This defense has the potential to be bringing some serious heat on opposing teams’ passing games. The secondary will have Michael Huff and Matt Elam at safety. The corners will be Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith.
- Offense: Andy Dalton may have taken this team as far as he can take them as the starting quarterback. He is effective as a manager of an offense, but you can not stop but think that this team needs a little more from this position. Yes, he has helped lead them to two playoff appearances. His performance in the playoffs does not lead one to think that he can push this club over the hump. He is helped by having one of the great talents in the league at receiver in A. J. Green. Mohamed Sanu is returning from injury on the other side. He will also have a great pass catching tandem at Tight End with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. The Bengals drafted Giovanni Bernard out of North Carolina who may eventually supplant last years starter at running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
- Defense: The Bengals line up in a 4-3 defense and helped win quite a few games in spite of some sub par quarterback play in the latter part of the season. The defensive line will be led by tackle Geno Atkins with Domata Peko at nose. The ends are Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap. In the middle of the defense will be Rey Maualuga with James Harrison and Vontaze Burfict on the outside. The secondary will made up of corners Dre Kirkpatrick, Leon Hall, and Terrance Newman. The safeties will be Taylor Mays and Reggie Nelson.
- Offense: New Head Coach Rob Chudzinski and Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner will be working on getting some solid production from returning starter Brandon Weeden. Josh Gordon and Greg Little are the types of big receivers they look for in their down field passing attack. Gordon, however, is going to be dealing with a 2 game suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Trent Richardson can expect a lot of carries in this offense. He is dealing with a lower leg issue that is going to keep him out until August. The Browns hope this will not be a lingering issue or they will be in trouble.
- Defense: The Browns will line up in a 3-4 defense with Phil Taylor at the nose and Desmond Bryant Ahtyba Rubin at the ends. Paul Kruger and 1st round pick Barkevious Mingo will be on the outside at linebacker providing the pass rush. On the inside, will be D’Quell Jackson and Craig Robertson. The secondary will consist of Leon McFadden and Joe Haden on the corners. The safeties will be T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson.
- Offense: Ben Roethlisberger will be returning after recently having arthoscopic surgery on his right knee. He threw for 3,265 yards last year with 26 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. The Steelers badly need him to round into form if they are going to have any chance this year. He will be throwing to Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Veteran Jerricho Cotchery and rookie Markus Wheaton will provide depth there. Heath Miller returns at tight end. Le’Veon Bell was drafted to be featured back for the offense.
- Defense: The Steelers return a pretty salty defense, even with the off-season departures. Up front will be Steve McClendon at nose and Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood at the ends. Leading tacklers Larry Foote and Lawrence Foot return at the two inside linebacker spots. LaMarr Woodley and Jarvis Jones will man the outside linebacker positions. Jones will be replacing James Harrison who was released. In the secondary, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark return at the safeties. The corners will be Cortez Allen and Ike Taylor. The steelers defense was ranked #1 last year. It will be interesting if they can produce up to the same level this season. They will need to if the team is planning to make any run for the top of the division.
My predictions for the order of finish for the 2013 season are as follows:
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Cleveland Browns
As always, agree or disagree, let us know in the comments section.