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Redemption Time: 202 AFC North Preview
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Redemption Time: 202 AFC North Preview

Raphael Haynes
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With so many expectations and thoughts of the AFC North becoming one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL in 2019, injuries and underachieving output played a big part in a disappointing year in the division as a whole. Although the Baltimore Ravens are still listed as the favorites, the Pittsburgh Steelers are healthy and the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are coming into the 2020 with a new state of mind.

 

 Baltimore Ravens

Record in 2019: 14-2

Key Player: Cornerback – Marlon Humphrey

Player To Watch: Running Back – J.K. Dobbins

After a breakout year for the league’s MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, the goal should be Super Bowl or bust. Last year we saw the offense ride on the back of Jackson and the running game, which should be the same this year. With the addition of rookie running back J.K. Dobbins, this running attack should open up the passing game for the mediocre wide receiver core.

Defensively, the Ravens come in with one of the top defenses in the league. In a division where the ball will be up in the air at least 70 percent of the time, the secondary will be key to the success of the team. The million dollar question is how will they make up for the loss of Earl Thomas? Matthew Judon will have to be the cornerstone of this defense.

The Ravens passing game has to improve mightily in order for them to have a chance to get to the Super Bowl. Not only will the running game help the passing game but vice versa might be more important to the team. Special teams has to be effective for the team to reach that next level. Prediction: 11-5

 

 Cincinnati Bengals

Record in 2019: 2-14

Key Player: Left Tackle – Jonah Williams

Player To Watch: Safety – Jessie Bates III

The worst team in the league last year got the best player in college football by drafting quarterback Joe Burrow. Unlike most number one drafted quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, he will inherit one of the most talented wide receiver corps in the league. if the Joe Mixon can shoulder the weight and Burrow can be protected, their win total can jump significantly.

The front seven is the defense’s strongest attribute, in particular the pass rushers. Trae Waynes hopes to give a struggling secondary stability. To be honest, the defense will have to feed off the offense and maybe this might spark them as a whole.

To say the Super Bowl is the goal seems far fetched but we should see a different overall mindset of the team. If A.J. Green can get back to his pro Bowl status with the other weapons on offense, this team can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Prediction: 5-11

 

 Cleveland Browns

Record in 2019: 6-10

Key Player: Tight End – David Njoku

Player To Watch: Cornerback – Greedy Williams

Let’s keep it 100: this team’s fate depends on the success of Baker Mayfield. After a disappointing year in 2019, he comes in with a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski. If Stefanski can get him to buy in and get his mechanics up to par, the Browns might be talking about playoffs. With explosive running backs (Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt) and if Odell Beckham Jr. can get back to his All-Pro Status, the sky is the limit for this offense.

With Myles Garrett’s suspension being lifted and now reinstated for 2020, and with everyone healthy, this defense should become what we have been expecting with all the talent on the roster. There aren’t too many holes on this defense and the rookie Greedy Williams should boost the secondary in this passing division.

No suspensions, no silly outburst, no and no “I can’t believe he did that” plays and this team may very well be playing in the post season. Probably the most talented team in the NFL, this could be the year that they get over the hump. Prediction: 9-7

 

 Pittsburgh Steelers

Record in 2019: 8-8

Key Player: Linebacker – Devin Bush

Player To Watch: Wide Receiver – James Washington

In an injury plagued year, we saw the the Steelers battle and come within one game of making the playoffs. Now that Ben Roethlisberger is back along with James Conner, the team is once again a contender (if they can stay healthy). JuJu Smith-Schuster had a disappointing year but should be a threat now that Big Ben is back and with the addition of tight end Eric Ebron, the offense should be back with a vengeance.

We saw the defense step up for this team last year. They have three dynamic players on each phase of the defense. T.J. Watt, Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick all can make game changing plays that can spark not only the defense but the entire team.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has his fingerprints all over this team. We see they’re all in with his philosophy, the never quit attitude and next man up mentality will be even more effective now that the team is fully healthy. Prediction: 11-5

 

About Raphael Haynes

Atlanta, GA

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