The start of the NFL season is now less than two months away. That seems like a long time but it’s not. Summer will fly by and before you know real football games are going to be played. Coming into the 2014 season the AFC North is not being seen as a great division, in fact many people are calling it mediocre. Some of those people include the Las Vegas oddsmakers, who have all four of the AFC North teams win totals under 10. The rest of the NFL has four predicted division winners with win totals over 10. This could be good news for Steelers fans though because the favorite Cincinnati Bengals are far from a lock to win their second straight division title. Last year the oddmakers over/under win totals resulted in 15 teams going over, 16 going under, and one being exactly right. Also only three of the eight NFL divisions did the projected team to win the division actually ended out winning that division (New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers). This all sounds like pretty good news for the Steelers. Without further ado here are the over/under win totals for the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens — 8.5 Wins
Last season may have been an anomaly for the Ravens. The 8-8 season was the first time John Harbaugh failed to have at least nine wins in his first six years as the head coach. They added Steve Smith and Owen Daniels to the offense and through the draft they added C.J. Mosley and Timmy Jernigan. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Ray Lewis is not walking through the door, which I felt was a major factor in their .500 season. Just a lack of leadership. This year however their schedule is not all that tough, especially their final three games of the year. Winning nine or more games is very realistic for Baldymore.
Cincinnati Bengals — 9 Wins
The Bengals have won nine or more games four times in the past five seasons. They are the defending AFC North winners and have been to the playoffs three straight years. They haven’t won a game in the playoffs though. Coming into this season they lost both of their coordinators, Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer. Andy Dalton is off the worst game of his career after his debacle in the playoffs against the Chargers. They do still have A.J. Green, a talented Giovanni Bernard entering his second year and they get Geno Atkins back from injury to help their already solid defense. Their schedule includes five games against playoff teams from last year. For some reason I don’t have a ton of confidence in the Bengals. I don’t think they will be awful but I could see nine wins being exactly what they finish with.
Cleveland Browns — 6.5 Wins
Well I already have the Ravens and Bengals winning nine games or more. That’s not good news for the Brownies. Somebody is going to have to lose games in the AFC North and I don’t see the Steelers being the bottom dwellers this year. Sadly the Browns appear destined for the seventh straight ten loss season. I seriously doubt that we see Josh Gordon on the field this year, which won’t help either Brain Hoyer or Johnny Manziel. Their defense is good and will keep them in games but it won’t win them seven. Take a look at their schedule. It would not shock me at all if the start the year 0-3 and then also lose their final four games of the season. Sorry Browns fans I don’t think this is your year. Maybe LeBron will come back to Cleveland though, so that’s something right?
Pittsburgh Steelers — 8.5 Wins
The Steelers can’t possibly go 8-8 for the third straight year can they? I sure hope not. Their schedule is far from scary. Minus the two games against the Bengals, they only play four playoff teams from last year. Two of those teams, Chiefs and Panthers, aren’t exactly year after year Super Bowl contenders so they could fall off this year. Ben Roethlisberger is the best quarterback in the division and after finishing last year with a 6-2 record in the final eight games, they should have some momentum. Just think last year they could have won ten games had they not lost to the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans. I’m not saying the Steelers are among the elite teams in the NFL, but ten wins is very doable.
In review I picked three of four teams to win at least nine games, which is not unheard of in the AFC North. In fact four of the past five seasons three teams have won eight or more games. What do you think Steelers Nation? Am I overrating or underrating any of the four AFC North teams?