I would have to say that the AFC North had one of the more interesting drafts of all the divisions in the NFL. Each team made key (or head scratching) moves directly involving offense. Each team is primed to have either a great offense or one that quickly swirls down the toilet bowl. Each quarterback also has a chance to have the season of a lifetime. For us to jump down this rabbit hole, we’re going to have to make a few assumptions.
First we’ll have to assume that nothing will happen to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger or Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Ben appears to be flying the straight and narrow these days, and Andy Dalton has about an exciting life as a three-toed sloth – no chances for any events that will steer them away from the football field. We must also assume that Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens will tidy up the contract dispute currently on the table. Flacco wants the big money and the Ravens are biting… yet. Joe doesn’t appear that he’ll be a hold out as he attended the OTA’s and mini camps. Now there’s about 10 (maybe he has 9?) Joe Flacco fans out there who will argue that there’s no way he’ll hold out. And perhaps that’s true – he has the lack of spine to show up in camp. But I’m not convinced that Uni won’t try and pull a power play right before camp – after all, he is ‘the best’ right? But for now, we’ll assume that he’ll be taking the snaps. Our last assumption is the hardest one to make, but we’ll have to go on blind faith in order for this poll to work. We’re going to have to assume that Brandon Weeden will be the starter for the Cleveland Browns. Although it may seem easy to think that Weeden will be the starter, Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace are the other men competing for that job. And while it may also be easy to write off McCoy, cause boy the analysts sure did on draft night, he will still have some fight in him. The Browns will be going for broke as they always do since they have no fighting chance of taking the division. If they feel Weeden is the guy to inject some type of pulse into that offense, then he’ll be the one to start. Ok, I’m game. Weeden it is.
The Steelers added a ton of weapons to the offense, and that includes the offensive line as being a weapon. With the addition of great run blockers like David DeCastro and Mike Adams, the tallest TE in the business Leonard Pope, and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the Steelers have the potential of blowing up the scoreboard. Can’t forget to mention NFL record setting receiver Antonio Brown and the other pass catchers, Heath Miller, and Isaac Redman primed to carry this team to the playoffs. Big Ben has the potential of the best season of his career. But will it be the best among the AFC North?
Andy Dalton proved that ginger can be cool. He had a great rookie season, and connected with star receiver A.J. Green. Were he to have one good game against the Steelers last season, the Bengals could have had the Steelers on the outside looking in come playoff time. But with any rookie season came highs and lows. Now it’s time for Dalton to settle in with his offense once again (that surprisingly ranked 20th in the passing game) and make another push for the playoffs.
Joe Flacco and the rest of the Ravens have quite a bit to deal with going into camp. Holdouts, injuries, etc. All distractions, and all things that can affect the overall chemistry of the team. Ray Rice, should he continue his hold out, could throughly screw this team by taking any semblance of a running game. No running game means more responsibility and pressure on Joe Flacco. And well, sometimes that just doesn’t work out to well for our friend Bert. He does have plenty of weapons still at his disposal – none more electric than Torrey Smith. Smith proved numerous times, including several against Pittsburgh, that he has amazing speed. Should he improve his ability to catch the football, Flacco could have TD after TD bomb.
Do I have to talk about the Browns offense? Wait. Is there even a Browns offense? Well, if there is, then Weeden has his work cut out for him. He’ll have to …. ummm….. weed out (sorry just couldn’t help myself) the bad from the good in the huddle and hope for the best. Who know, this kid and the rest of the dogs could surprise us come mid season – although the Homers will tell you the Browns are playoff bound and rulers of the North!
So – who’s it going to be? Big Ben, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco or Brandon Weeden? They all have the potential (except maybe Weeden) to have a great statistical season. But who will come out on top as the best?