Updated: May 15
By Brandon Wolf
Cleveland Browns Team Analyst
In 2019, the AFC North was not the same two-headed monster it had been in the past. The division finished as follows:
Now that the 2019 season is behind us, it is time to look forward to the 2020 season. So here is the floor, the ceiling, and the expectations for every team in the AFC North.
It's no secret that the Ravens are coming into this season as the best team in the AFC North. The only reason that they would finish at 10-6 or worse would be due to injury.
With Lamar Jackson coming off of his MVP season, and the Ravens front office having a phenomenal draft, I fully expect that they have what it takes to copy last season and end up as the top team in the AFC again.
Even though the Ravens were the best team in the AFC last year, you can only assume that other teams are going to adjust. Not to say Jackson is going to "get figured out." I just believe that taking a very small step back from last season is something I could expect from the Ravens.
Since 2003, the Steelers have not finished with a record under .500. So I don't expect them to break that long streak during this season.
A big x-factor for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season is going to be the health of Ben Roethlisberger. With Roethlisberger getting injured last season it threw a huge curveball into the Steelers' offensive game. Even though their defense was outstanding, it's hard to rely on turnovers for two consecutive years. If Roethlisberger was healthy last season, there is no doubt in my mind that they would’ve gone 10-6 or even better.
Even though this Steelers team will be better with Roethlisberger healthy, I do not expect them to be the same team that they were a few years ago. We are not quite sure how Roethlisberger is going to come back from his elbow injury. This is also the first time in a LONG time that the Steelers have had question marks at quite a few offensive positions.
The Cincinnati Bengals are putting their whole season on the shoulders of Joe Burrow, a rookie QB with no veteran in the room. And did I mention that Zac Taylor is only in his second season as head coach? Now, this may seem like I am trashing the Bengals, which I am not trying to. I just feel like they are not setting themselves up for a whole lot of success this season.
Now if Joe Burrow comes into the league and is the Boy Wonder that everyone expects him to be, and A.J. Green stays healthy, and Zac Taylor proves to be a great young head coach, I could see them finishing .500. I just feel like even if everything works in their favor, they still have quite a few question marks on their offensive line, as well as on the defensive side of the football.
Do I expect Joe Burrow to be the Boy Wonder? No.
Do I expect him to have a good rookie season and compete for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award? Yes, I do.
I do expect the Bengals receiving core to play very well this season and for Joe Mixon to make the jump from great to elite. I believe that by the time the 2021 season rolls around, the Bengals will be competitive in the AFC North.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a prove-it year for Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense. Last season, Baker nearly threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns. That was a huge shock to Browns fans and most of the NFL considering that he broke the rookie touchdown record in 2018. If Mayfield can figure it out, this team is going to be very deadly. If not, Cleveland could be seeing yet another down season.
In my opinion, the Cleveland Browns have the biggest gap between their floor and their ceiling. This team has a lot of potential and are one of the best offensive teams in the league on paper. If they live up to the talent, this team will be competing for a playoff spot and maybe even the top of the AFC North.
The Cleveland Browns are introducing a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski and a new general manager In Andrew Berry. A lot of people are hoping that Stefanski can and will unleash Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham and the offense's true potential.
With all sports being put on hold because of Covid-19, I believe this NFL season will be very highly anticipated. Fans of the AFC North had better be buckled up and ready for a wild ride because hard nose, smash-mouth football is back, baby! Football is back, baby! mashmouthotball is back baby!
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