With the NFL preseason thankfully coming to a close, we have a pretty good idea of what we can look forward to this year. Sure, we all know the ins and when it comes to the Jets and the rest of the AFC East around these parts, but what about the rest of the league? Well, today we’ll be taking a look at the AFC North. If you missed my AFC East preview (Which you can read HERE), I’ll be doing these previews in Stock Watch fashion. I’ll be buying and selling each team’s Vegas line on over/under of wins, some made-up stats props, some fantasy football tidbits, and whatever else. Here we go.
1. BALTIMORE RAVENS (11-5), #3 seed
BUY: Over 10 wins – Honestly, I think this will be a push, but there’s no fun in just agreeing with what the geniuses in Las Vegas have put out there for us, so I’m going with the over. I think a clean sweep of Cincinnati and Cleveland, coupled with a split with the Steelers will help get them to 10 easy, and perhaps 11. Yes, the defenses is starting to get up there in age and Terrell Suggs is out for a good chunk of the season, but they’ll still be good enough to carry Joe Flacco through yet another season.
SELL: Joe Flacco – Speaking of Flacco, I’ve been hearing more and more frequently lately from “the experts” about how this is going to be his breakout campaign and he’s gonna crack 4,000 yards. Umm, sorry, I don’t see that happening. Joe Flacco stinks, and even if they are going to a more pass-happy offense, that just means more dump-off passes to Ray Rice. Anquan Boldin can barely run these days, and while Torrey Smith looks like a good receiver, he’s not quite in that “elite” group, which is what Flacco would need to get up to that level. Plus, would you trust a guy who thought it was a good idea to grow that thing on his face to lead your team to the Super Bowl?
SELL: Over 0.5 playoff wins – The Ravens will get into the playoffs this year more due to a weak division than because they’re a legit Super Bowl contender. Last year they had it for the taking and Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff blew it for them. Now both those players are gone, but it’s not going to matter. I see the Ravens taking a slight step backwards and going 1-and-out in the playoffs.
BUY: Torrey Smith Over 1,000 yards - After recording 841 yards last year as a rookie, look for Smith to take a leap this year toward becoming a solid #1 receiver. 1,000 yards should be a lock for Mr. Smith, despite Cam Cameron (who is awful) calling the plays.
2. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-7), missed playoffs
SELL: Over 10 wins – I think this is the last go-round for this group of players, especially on the defensive side, and it’s not going to end well. Yes, they’ll win their share of games, but it will become clear this is no longer the Steelers team we’ve become accustomed to seeing the past few seasons. James Farrior and Aaron Smith are gone. Guys like Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton, and James Harrison are nearing the end. Ike Taylor was never that good to begin with. The offensive line is atrocious and seems intent on getting Big Ben killed. It’s time to re-build or at least re-load.
BUY: Over 2.5 fights between Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger – Every time I watch the Steelers this year (and it will be often because CBS thinks EVERYONE wants to see the Steelers every single week), this is what I’m going to be rooting for. I just hope they escalate from your typical shouting matches where they say “It was the heat of the moment, we are fine” after the game, into all-out fisticuffs. If there’s a coach in the league that would make this a legit possibility, it’s Todd Haley.
BUY: Big Ben over 4,000 yards – Since the team has no running backs and an awful offensive line, Big Ben is going to have to pass. A lot. And that’s why…
BUY: Antonio Brown over 1,200 yards – Antonio Brown is going to be a fantasy football superstar. But if any players in the TurnOnTheJets.com fantasy football league are reading this, I’m just kidding about Brown. Forget I said anything.
BUY: Roethlisberger over 50 sacks – That’s a little over 3 per game. With this horrific offensive line, 50 could be reached by November. I don’t know what the record is for sacks in a season, but it’s in jeopardy.
3. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-9)
SELL: Over 8.5 wins – Despite an impressive season last year with rookies Andy Dalton and AJ Green playing really well, I don’t see it carrying into this season. Not that Dalton and Green won’t play well, it’s just that… it’s the Bengals. Plus, Marvin Lewis is going to cost them at least 2 games with his inability to properly use his timeouts and/or his inexplicable failed challenge flags.
SELL: Benjarvus Green-Ellis – I was never particularly impressed by BJGE with the Patriots, and I can’t imagine that’s going to change now that he’s the Bengals starting running back. With the Patriots, he was constantly facing nickel and dime looks on defense because teams were scared to death of Tom Brady passing the ball. Now it’s going to be regular defenses who will be keying on him, and I don’t think it’s going to be pretty.
SELL: Over 0.5 wins against the Steelers and Ravens this year – Just like last year, the Bengals are going to show they aren’t ready to move on up in the world and overtake either of the two teams that ruled the division for the past decade.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12)
SELL: Over 5 wins – It’s going to be yet another rough season for the Browns. Just when they had a glimmer of hope with the selection of running back Trent Richardson in the first round, it turns out he has a bum knee and his status for the start of the season is in jeopardy. Even if he plays week 1, do you have a lot of confidence that he can make it through 16 games on a bum knee with defenses keying on him as he tries to carry the entire team on his back? I see a lot of Chris Weinke 2.0, aka Brandon Weeden, struggling out there with or without Richardson.
BUY: Trent Richardson over 1,000 yards – All that being said, Trent Richardson is so talented that even on this crappy team, with a crappy coach, with a crappy Q, with a bum knee, he will still crank out of 1,000 yards and show plenty of flashes of greatness along the way. When he gets to leave the Browns in a few years, we’ll really get to see a great player thrive.
SELL: Mike Holmgren – You never hear about this guy anymore, do you? He got a massive payday to come in and “save” the Browns, and all he did was fire Eric Mangini (who was actually doing a pretty good job), blow a ton of draft picks, and then pretty much give up. It’s no wonder Browns fans are always so miserable.