Ladies and Gentleman, football season is right around the corner. Preseason is in full swing, ‘Hard Knocks’ episode 1 has premiered and the NFL fans worldwide are excited for the new season. The NFL’s return is imminent.
What should we expect from the AFC North? Dominance. That’s the only word to use for a division with such imbalance of quality.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the Steelers. The Steelers have won 8 divisions since it became known as the ‘AFC North’ and have been the most successful franchise in the division.
They once again have a stacked offence in the hands of quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. Moreover, the offensive weapons at his disposal are formidable. With the league’s best running back and wide receiver still in the line-up in Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. In addition, JuJu Smith-Schuster – who had a breakout rookie year – will provide further fuel to the red hot offence.
Defensively, the Steelers are somewhat lacklustre. Despite the Steelers’ troubles at the heart of the defence they have released some “troublemakers” from the roster like safety Mike Mitchell.
Next up, the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens were once a football powerhouse who possessed one of the most shutdown defensive cores in the league back in Ray Lewis’ prime. However, the script for the franchise has changed. They’ve failed to reach the postseason in 2 years straight and the future looks even bleaker.
The Ravens are spearheaded by ageing quarterback, Joe Flacco, who is heading into the latter stage of his career. Lemar Jackson looks to take his starting spot. The former Heisman Trophy winner adopts a ‘runner’ approach to the playbook rather than being a ‘pocket passer’.
The Ravens also made a stunning acquisition of Michael Crabtree from the Oakland Raiders for this season who will be a fantastic weapon. Defensively, the Maryland franchise have studs at their disposal like Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. On the other hand, there is still a large hole in the offensive line left by the departure of Ricky Wagner to the Lions. And we all know that holes on the offensive line spells ultimate disaster for the offence.
The Cincinnati Bengals return hoping for a stark improvement on recent years. They have done some good work already with the addition of Billy Price. The 6’4″ centre was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman Of The Year and should bolster the offensive line which has struggled in recent years.
Furthermore, snagging offensive tackle, Cordy Glenn, will further improve breathing room for Andy Dalton to truly blossom this upcoming season. In spite of that, the Bengals are not without their troubles. The return of coach Marvin Lewis could spell disaster for a fairly talented roster. Many believe the head coach is still to blame for the poor record of the Bengals, and I agree.
Time for a change in Cincy? We will soon find out.
Last up it’s the Cleveland Browns. The first episode of ‘Hard Knocks’ is all you need to view in order to pick apart the reason for failure within the team. Coach Hue Jackson appears to be wildly out of his depths with this young and talented roster. Moreover, his style of management, best described as a player’s coach, does not appear to fit well at all for the team dynamic. With many hailing his method of coaching to be somewhat “fake”.
Also, some of the Browns roster decided to sit the first sessions of practice out, which led to offensive co-ordinator, Todd Haley, questioning Jackson’s attitude to these players’ actions. Don’t get me wrong, the Browns made some absolutely fantastic acquisitions in Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb. However, these pick-ups mean absolutely nothing to the franchise if there is no trust from the players and coaches.