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NFL Pro Football 2010 AFC North Preview

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Fearless Rick's 2010 NFL Preview - AFC NORTH

Rick Gagliano | July 25, 2010


Cincinnati Bengals 2009 record: (10-6) Projected 2010 record: (11-5)

Predicted finish: 1st, AFC North

Head Coach: Marvin Lewis

Departed: WR Laveranues Coles; TE J.P; Foschi; RB Larry Johnson; K Shayne Graham; CB Keiwan Ratliff

Incoming: CB Adam "Pac-Man" Jones; WR Antonio Bryant; FS Gibril Wilson; K Mike Nugent; WR Matt Jones; rookie WR Jordan Shipley; rookie TE Jermaine Gresham; rookie LB Roddrick Muckelroy; rookie CB Brandon Ghee; rookie DT Geno Atkins; rookie DE Carlos Dunlap

Strengths: Passing game. The Bengals added to their arsenal significantly in the off-season, acquiring Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones, and grabbing Texas wideout Jordan Shipley in the draft. Along with Chad Ochocinco, QB Carson Palmer may lead the league in any number of throwing categories. Special Teams. Picking up Mike Nugent was genius. He's got one of the strongest legs in the league. Adam "Pac-Man" Jones may return punts and he's a dangerous sort.

Weaknesses: Rushing. Cedric Benson handled the load in 2009, but he may be suspended for part of the season due to an off-season incident. Behimd him is Bernard Scott, who isn't much but the Bengals also don't run the ball often.

Key Games: 9/12 @ New England; 9/19 vs. Baltimore. Tough way to start out the season, especially if Cedric Benson isn't available (see above and below). 12/26 vs. San Diego; 1/2 @ Baltimore. Doesn't get any easier by the end of the season either, closing out with two near-certain playoff teams.

What if?: Cedric Benson is suspended for four to six games, as that seems to be the likely league policy decision? The Bengals are hoping that another Cedric - Peerman - will pick up where Benson left off last season, bowling over opponents en route to a team record six 100-yard games. It also depends which four or six Benson misses, though probably they will come at the start of the season, which would work in their favor as their bye week is week 5. At the end of the season, Benson will be the starter, and that's trouble for opposing defenses.

Baltimore Ravens 2009 record: (9-7) Projected 2010 record: (10-6)

Predicted finish: 2nd AFC North, Wild Card

Head Coach: John Harbaugh

Departed: DE Dwan Edwards; DT Justin Bannan; CB Samari Rolle; WR Frank Walker; TE Quinn Sypniewski; OT Adam Terry

Incoming: WR Anquan Boldin; CB Walt Harris; FS Ken Hamlin; WR Donte' Stallworth; QB Marc Bulger; DE Cory Redding; K Shayne Graham; rookie TE Ed Dickson; rookie DE Sergio Kindle; rookie TE Dennis Pitta; rookie DT Arthur Jones; rookie NT Terrence Cody

Strengths: Rushing. Ray Rice emerged last season as a premier, every down back with the ability to carry the team. Baltimore finished the regular season 5th in rushing offense, at 137.5 ypg. Flanked by FB Le'Ron McClain and spelled by Willis McGahee, the Ravens have a nice flow n their backfield. Defense. Ranked 3rd in both points allowed (16.3) and yards allowed (300.5), the Ravens epitomize the rugged AFC defensive mindset.

Weaknesses: Playing Cincinnati and Pittsburgh twice each. Of the four games against the Steelers and Bengals last season, three were decided by field goals, and the only game the Ravens won was in overtime against Pittsburgh. They can expect no better than a split in their contests against the Bengals this season, though beating the Steelers twice is a possibility.

Key Games: 9/19 @ Cincinnati; 1/2 vs. Cincinnati. They play their fiercest division rival in week two and again in the final regular season game, which almost certainly will involve playoff implications. 11/11 @ Atlanta; 11/21 @ Carolina; 1128 vs. Tampa Bay. Playing three of the four NFC South opponents in consecutive weeks (the Nov. 11 game is on Thursday night) is another interesting aspect of the Ravens' schedule, but only the first of these should be a test.

What if?: The Ravens beat the Bengals twice? If that happens, you can just flip the two in the standings. There's a real possibility they'll end up tied atop the division at the end of the season, so tie-breaking procedures may come into play. Baltimore has the horsepower to reach the playoffs and beyond this year.


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Pittsburgh Steelers 2009 record: (9-7) Projected 2010 record: (8-8)

Predicted finish: 3rd, AFC North

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin

Departed: G Darnell Stepleton; DT Travis Kirschke; S Tyrone Carter; CB Deshea Townsend; RB Willie Parker; WR Santonio Holmes;.

Incoming: WR Arnaz Battle; WR Antwaan Randle El; QB Byron Leftwich; OT Jonathan Scott; S Will Allen; LB Larry Foote; rookie DE Thaddeus Gibson; rookie G Maurkice Pouncey; rookie DE Jason Worilds; rookie WR Emmanuel Sanders

Strengths: Linebackers. LaMarr Woodly, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison comprise what is likely the best 3-4 linebacking unit in the league. Teams will find running tough against this unit, which was third in the league in yards allowed per game at 89.9.

Weaknesses: Quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is probably going to miss the first four games of the season, so Byron Leftwich will probably start, plus, when Big Ben does finally debut, who knows how focused he'll be. The Steelers also lost Willie Parker to free agency, though Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore should handle the work load. Hines Ward and Mike Wallace will start as receivers with Arnaz Battle and Antwaan Randle El getting plenty of playing time. The most the Steelers can hope for from this bunch is steady play and durability, but Roethlisberger's overall effectiveness remains an issue.

Key Games: 10/3 vs. Baltimore; 11/8 @ Cincinnati; 12/5 @ Baltimore; 12/12 vs. Cincinnati. Last season, the Steelers one only one game out of four against their main division rivals and the one win was by a field goal over the Ravens. Baltimore and Cincinnati seem to have passed the Steelers by and are now the elite North division teams. Going winless against these two would certainly hurt the Steelers chances badly.

What if?: The Steelers are 1-3 or 0-4 their first four weeks, while Roeslisberger is suspended? It's a key issue, because three of those games - opening Sunday vs. Atlanta, 9/18 @ Tampa Bay and 10/3 vs. Baltimore are not going to be easy. The 9/26 tilt at Tampa Bay may prove a tougher test than this group is ready for, especially if they go in 0-2, a distinct possibility. If the Steelers can't manage two wins prior to their bye week, kiss them good-bye.

Cleveland Browns 2009 record: (5-11) Projected 2010 record: (5-11)

Predicted finish: 5-11

Head Coach: Eric Mangini

Departed: QB Brady Quinn; QB Derek Anderson; WR Mike Furrey; WR Donte' Stallworth; RB Jamal Lewis; DE Kamerion Wimbley; DT Corey Williams; LB Alex Hall; S Brodney Pool; OT Ryan Tucker; C Hank Fraley; G Rex Hadnot

Incoming: TE Ben Watson; TE Alex Smith; WR Bobby Engram; QB Seneca Wallace; QB Jake Delhomme; FB Peyton Hillis; OT Tony Pashos; CB Sheldon Brown; LB Scott Fujita; LB Chris Gocong; K Shaun Suisham; rookie QB Colt McCoy; rookie RB Montario Hardesty; rookie CB Joe Haden;; rookie S Larry Asante; rookie WR rookie S T.J. Ward; Carlton Mitchell; rookie DT Clifton Geathers

Strengths: New management, new players. The Browns made wholesale changes in their player personnel with Mike Holmgren taking over as general manager.

Weaknesses: New management, new players. The Browns made wholesale changes in their player personnel with Mike Holmgren taking over as general manager. It could go either way, but for purposes of 2010, it's going to work against them more than for them.

Key Games: None. Cleveland will be happy to win any games and overwhelmed if they are .500 or better at any point during the season. This is a rebuilding year. Again.

What if?: Will Mike Holmgren's job be at stake if the Browns are as bad as they've been recently? No, but maybe Eric Mangini will be gone. There's always the need for a scapegoat during losing campaigns and Holmgren deflects criticism quite well. He's safe, like it or not, but expect the coach to be gone if the Browns aren't improving by mid-to-late in the season.

Copyright 2010, 2010, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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