AFC North Season Preview
Last year, the Baltimore Ravens’ 14-2 regular season was derailed by an upset to Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional Round.
The Ravens failed to stop Tennessee's run-and-pound offense, led by running back Derrick Henry. As a result, General Manager Eric DeCosta made it a priority to upgrade the defensive unit.
DeCosta acquired 6-foot-8 inch defensive lineman Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars, signed defensive end Derek Wolfe to a one-year contract and drafted former LSU middle linebacker Patrick Queen.
DeCosta also equipped his MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson with more weapons in a potent run-pass option offense. Baltimore drafted former Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins and former Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay. Overall, the Ravens added more depth to one of the most lethal offenses in the league.
If the Ravens have any hopes of winning a Super Bowl, they will have to be keen on stopping the run and Lamar Jackson will have to maintain his MVP form.
From Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury in Week 2, to Mason Rudolph getting smacked in the head by Myles Garrett and the acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 8-8 regular season was an interesting one to say the least.
Ultimately, the Steelers ended their season on a three-game losing streak, putting any playoff hopes to rest.
The Steelers will be fine defensively, as they led the league in both sacks and takeaways. However, health and consistency will be the main factor, as James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster missed significant time last season.
However, the Steelers added tight end Eric Ebron and drafted former Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool to compliment the offense.
If Roethlisberger can stay healthy and connect with his weapons, the Steelers can contend in the AFC.
The Cleveland Browns’ 6-10 regular season was filled with failed expectations and distractions. At one point, it appeared that Baker Mayfield had more commercials than victories as an NFL quarterback.
However, there is a sense of fresh air with former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski taking over as head coach. Stefanski’s best work came in 2017 when he and Case Keenum led the Vikings to a 13-3 record.
Thus, Stefanski should bring the best out of his younger quarterback. Mayfield already had a talented cast of weapons composed of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. But the Browns added even more support for Mayfield, signing offensive tackle Jack Conklin and tight endAustin Hooper during free agency and drafting former Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.
The Browns will win games due to their talent on the defensive side. However, if they want to prove their critics wrong, Mayfield will have to play like a first overall pick.
The Cincinnati Bengals looked like a team under a rookie head coach in 2019. The Bengals lost their first 11 games under Zac Taylor, earned the first overall pick and selected highly touted quarterback Joe Burrow from LSU.
Burrow’s confidence, composure and accuracy made him the consensus first overall pick.
Burrow will go through the growing pains that all young quarterbacks go through. Expect the absence of the preseason to stunt the development of Burrow.
However, Burrow has some interesting wide receivers in his arsenal. Tyler Boyd and rookie Tee Higgins from Clemson will be prime targets in the passing game. On the ground, Joe Mixon should be productive after signing a four-year contract extension worth $48 million.
But, if A.J. Green can stay healthy and play like his former self, the entire offense has a different look.
The Bengals will go through another tough season with having a rookie quarterback and a dull roster, but the future is bright with Burrow.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.