This could be the most balanced division from top to bottom in the NFL. But Red is running low on gas and time. A quick look at the AFC North is what results.
Baltimore Ravens – No team did more with less last season. The Ravens were ravaged with injuries, the defense was terrible, Lamar Jackson was not good in the clutch and yet they started 8-3 before losing 6 in a row to finish in last place. There were a few highlights. Justin Tucker broke the NFL record for the longest field goal in history, kicking a 66-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Detroit Lions 19–17. The Ravens also tied the record for most consecutive games rushing over 100 yards as a team with 43 in a 23–7 win over the Denver Broncos. But it was downhill from there. This season there appear to be at least 13 winnable games on the schedule. There are tough games against the Bills, Bengals (2) and Buccaneers, but every other game is winnable. Keep in mind that 5 of the season-ending 6 losses were by a total of 8 points. Red thinks the Ravens win the close ones this season and pick up a win against the Bengals at home. A 12-5 record is a big stretch but can be done. However, if L. Jackson sits all bets are off.
Cincinnati Bengals – An unbelievable turn around in 2021 got the Bengals their first playoff wins in 30 years. Red admits he wasn’t a believer, but Hallelujah Brother! Everyone will be gunning for the AFC Champs this season who were just 4 points shy of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The Bengals biggest weakness last season was pass protection. Burrow was sacked 51 times in the regular season and 19 times in the playoffs doing his best imitation of Patrick Mahomes running for his life in the Superb Owl. The Bengals signed Karras, Collins and Cappa to plug those holes. The skill spots are still solid and if the line is better, watch out. The Bengals did not lose much talent over the off-season. There is a lot to like here. Bengals go 12-5 and lose the division title in a tie-breaker.
Cleveland Browns – Maybe some day the Browns will make a good move at quarterback. Perhaps Bernie Kosar will come out of retirement. Until week 12, much-traveled Jacoby Brissett will be under center. He does have three capable running backs in Chubb, Hunt and Johnson and the addition of WR Amari Cooper will help. The Browns defense is actually pretty good if it can just play 60 minutes this season and not give up late leads. Red wonders if there are enough masseuses in Cleveland to go around. All that talk about DeShaun Watson being such a great guy and role model appears to have been a bunch of hooey. He is talented and if the Browns can go 6-5 until his return he will have the freshest legs and arm in the game. Browns are 10-7 and in the mix.
Pittsburgh Stealers – It was inevitable that the Stealers would suck some day. Today is the day. 6-11 is the result.