AFC North 2009 Preview
1. Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5 #3 seed
Key Losses: Byron Leftwich, Nate Washington, Fernando Bryant
Key Draft Picks: Evander Hood
Overview: After delivering a super bowl victory to Pittsburgh in the 2008-2009 season the Steelers have set the bar high for the 2009-2010 season. A loss that may be over looked from the offseason is the departure of backup QB Byron Leftwich, Big Ben may be one of the toughest players in the league but he misses a lot of time and without Leftwich in 2008 you can argue the Steelers don’t make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl. If Limas Sweed can fulfill his potential the offense won’t miss Nate Washington and his big play ability. The key to the Steelers this year, as it was last year, in their defense. LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison form the best outside linebacking duo in football and the always dangerous Troy Polamalu returns on defense.
2. Baltimore Ravens 10-6 #5 seed
Key Additions: Matt Birk, L.J. Smith
Key Losses: Derrick Mason, Lorenzo Neal, Bart Scott, Willie Anderson
Key Draft Picks: Michael Oher
Overview: Adding Matt Birk, Michael Oher and L.J. Smith to the offensive line for 2nd year QB Joe Flacco is key to the Ravens succeeding again in 2009. With Lorenzo Neal leaving via free agency Le’Ron McClain will be forced back into the full back role and Ray Rice and Willis McGahee will once again be the featured backs. On defense the loss of coordinator Rex Ryan and Bart Scott will hurt but with Ray Lewis returning they have a coach on the field at all times. The Ravens record won’t be as good as 2008 but I think the team will improve and they’ll still make the playoffs.
3. Cincinnati Bengals 6-10
Key Additions: Roy Williams, Laveranues Coles
Key Losses: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Levi Jones
Key Draft Picks: Andre Smith, Ray Maualuga, Michael Johnson
Overview: 2008 was a season to forget the Bengals, Carson Palmer missed most of the season with an elbow injury, Chris Henry couldn’t stay out of trouble and Chad Johnson was more worried about his last name than playing football. Fortunately for the Bengals Chad Ochocinco got his name change resolved but then discovered twitter and has vowed to tweet during games, anything that can get him more attention. If Chad put half as much effort into football as he did into getting attention the Bengals could be a good team. Hopefully veteran Laveranues Coles can help ease the loss of the always reliable T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Since leaving the Ravens to become the Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has been unable to put together a solid defense and this shouldn’t be much different. LBs Ray Maualuga and Keith Rivers will help lead a solid LB core but the rest of the defense is suspect at best.
4. Cleveland Browns 3-13
Key Additions: Mike Furrey
Key Losses: Donte’ Stallworth, Kellen Winslow
Key Draft Picks: Alex Mack Brian Robiskie, Kaluka Maiava
Overview: Wow, where do I start? They have no idea who their starting QB is, they traded away their best TE, their best WR is unhappy, and their 2nd best WR is in jail and that’s just on the offensive side. Eric Mangini did his best to bring in former Jets players and got 6 of them on the team but I don’t think it makes a difference. Linebackers Kamerion Wimbley and D’Qwell Jackson will be beasts like they were last year but the rest of the defense is terrible. I struggled to find 3 wins for them this year.