NFL Mid-Season Predictions: AFC North

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AFC North

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Z-Bengals 12-4:  During the game against New England things started clicking for quarterback Andy Dalton and he has been on a tear ever since then ( averaging 311.5 passing while throw 8 touchdowns the last four games).

Dalton is starting to show the progress many Bengals fans have been waiting for after playing good but not great so far in his career.

A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, who had his breakout party last week, are certainly factoring (30 receptions, 623 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns combined in last three games) in on the improvement in Dalton’s play which has the Bengals passing offense ranked seventh.

You cannot forget about the defense when you talk about why the Bengals are playing so well. They aren’t a top five defense against the pass (11th) or run (eighth) but are still formidable in both assets of the game. In the surprisingly weak AFC North the Bengals are the only team that seems like a legit contender this season. Because of this I see them cruising to a division title with relative ease. The real question we need to find out?   if this finally is the year that the Bengals win their first playoff game since 1990-91 season.

Ravens 8-8: The Ravens season has been a see-saw to say the least.  When it boils down to it, their offense has played sluggish. They have had problems getting the running game going, while some games Joe Flacco has been on and others he’s been off.   If it wasn’t for a defense led by Terrell Suggs, that knows how to takes the quarterback down with a mean streak, things might be worse than they are. The Ravens turned things around after a slump last season to win the Super Bowl. However, there are key players missing from that team that makes me question if they can fix their problems this season and starting looking like a contender. Because of this I’m skeptic, and have to say that even though the Ravens will be in the playoff hunt they will fall short of the playoffs for the first time with John Harbaugh as head coach.

big ben 2


Steelers 6-10: People have a legit argument when they say the offensive line should play better with all the high draft picks (five picks in first and second round since 2009) the Steelers have used to try and improve it, but Big Ben has been running for his life his whole career (Big Ben takes an average of 37 sacks a season for his career) and still has managed to win two Super Bowls.

The problem in my eyes is a team that is notorious for running the ball has a pass-first minded offensive coordinator in Todd Haley. While they’re playing tough on defense they’re having serious issues stopping the run (ranked 27th and have allowed nine touchdowns). This of course is because players are aging, although the team is addressing this issue (drafted nine defensive players the last two years).  You have to go back 13 years to find the last time the Steelers missed the playoffs in consecutive years. This is the season it happens again. Steelers fans be patient – your team has a long history of success and if you don’t remember even the great Bill Cowher had a playoff drought (1998-00).  So don’t start calling for Mike Tomlin’s head just yet – the man has won a Super Bowl and has been unsuccessful in another.

Browns 5-11: Finding out when the sports gods will stop punishing Cleveland with bad luck, might just be the real answer for success. There was a glimmer of hope when the Browns were on a three game winning streak when Brian Hoyer started emerging at quarterback. Thing is, that all changed when Hoyer went down for the season with an ACL tear, and the Browns had to revert back to the no chance of succeeding Weeden project. Now Jason Campbell is getting a shot under center and looked good against the Chiefs but that was just one game. The one constant is their young defense that has kept them in most games and has a promising future. The Gods have already spoken and said this is not the year for success. Nevertheless, this team has a promising future with new head coach Rob Chudzinsk at the helm who has this team playing hard. However, the future of this team hangs in the balance of what general manager Michael Lombardi does with his two first round draft picks he has at his disposal next year.

x – Clinched playoff
y – Clinched Wild Card
z – Clinched Division
* – Clinched Division and Homefield Advantage

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