We will continue this edition with the AFC North division. Right now, the Bears are leading the voting for who you think will win the NFC North. If you haven't voted on that poll yet, you can vote here.
Last season, the AFC North featured two playoff teams, including the Super Bowl runner-up. It features the Ravens-Steelers heated rivalry. There were 3 Super Bowls won by the 2 teams combined in the last decade. The Steelers have the most Super Bowl victories in history(6).
AFC North 2010 Standings:
Pittsburgh Steelers: 12-4 (Division Champion)
Baltimore Ravens: 12-4 (Wild Card)
Cleveland Browns: 5-11
Cincinnati Bengals: 4-12
Pittsburgh Steelers: (2010 Season Result: Lost in Super Bowl)
Overview: The Steelers are arguably the most complete team in the league. The marched all the way to the Super Bowl despite the fact that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out the first 4 games of the season due to suspension. The Steelers gave Roethlisberger another target by signing WR Jerricho Cotchery to go along with the speedy Mike Wallace, veteran Hines Ward, and underrated TE Heath Miller. Rashard Mendenhall emerged as a top 10 rusher last season and should put up big numbers again. But the strength of this team comes from its defense. They have one of the top defensive units in the league. It ranked in the top 5 in nearly every major category. Pittsburgh has arguably the best crop of linebackers in the league in James Harrison, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, and LaMarr Woodley. The Steelers made a good move by re-signing CB Ike Taylor. Taylor, along with hard-hitting safeties Ryan Clark and DPOY Troy Polumalu, give Pittsburgh one of the most aggressive secondaries in the league. The key for the defense is the health of DE Aaron Smith. Smith is a good pass-rusher, but injuries limited him last season. If he stays healthy, Pittsburgh's D can, somehow, get better.
Analysis: The Steelers are serious contenders, but their Super Bowl hopes rely in the hands of Roethlisberger and if he can lead the offense.
Baltimore Ravens: (2010 Season Result: Lost in Divisional Playoff Round)
Overview: For the second time in 3 years, the Ravens were knocked out of the playoffs by their hated rival, the Steelers. Quarterback Joe Flacco has played well in his three pro seasons, leading the Ravens to playoff berths in each, but he must show that he can play better under pressure. the Ravens released veterans WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap and acquired Lee Evans. The speedy Evans gives the Ravens a deep-threat and a good complement to Anquan Boldin. Dual-threat RB Ray Rice had another big season, finishing in the top 5 in yards from scrimmage for the second straight year. The Ravens signed veteran RB Ricky Williams to back-up Rice. The Ravens have one of the most aggressive defenses in the league, but their leader, LB Ray Lewis, is 36. Although he is still a force, his best seasons are behind him. LB Terrell Suggs(11 sacks) had another good season. Safety Ed Reed is injury-prone, but he is still on of the best seafeties in the league. Baltimore upgraded their cornerbacks by drafting Jimmy Smith in the first round and re-signing Chris Carr.
Analysis: If Flacco improves and this team can beat the Steelers, the Super Bowl will be within reach.
Cleveland Browns: (2010 Season Result: Missed Playoffs)
Overview: After another pair of losing seasons, the Browns fired Eric Mangini and replaced him with former Rams offensive coordinater Pat Shurmer. Shurmer, who developed last year's Rookie of the Year quarterback Sam Bradford, will have to try to get the most out of second year QB Colt McCoy. McCoy didn't have a great rookie season, but he showed flashes and signs of promise. He should excel in Shurmer's system. Problem is, the Browns are thin at WR. The top WR is Mohamed Massaquoi who is inconsistent and injury-prone. Veteran TE Benjamin Watson is the most reliable reciever. At least the Browns have a good RB in Peyton Hillis. A backup for most of his career, Hillis was the breakout star of 2010. On defense, the Browns will be switching to a new system under new coordinater Dick Jauron. Cleveland inproved its weak pass-rush in the draft by taking DT Phil Taylor and DE Jabaal Sheard. CB Eric Wright is gone, meaning second year CB Joe Haden will have to step up.
Analysis: The Browns are young and have plenty of promise, but getting used to new systems on both sides of the ball will take some time before they think about contending in this tough division.
Cincinnati Bengals: (2010 Season Result: Missed Playoffs)
Overview: Following a tough season, the Bengals lost the heart of their offense. Quarterback Carson Palmer retired, and star WRs Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are gone. Cincinnati will be counting on youngsters on offense. Promising rookie QB Andy Dalton will take over under center. First round pick A.J. Green, Jerome Simpsom, and slot reciever Jordan Shipley are the new crop of young WRs. The Bengals boast a good 1-2 punch at TE in Jermaine Gresham and Bo Scaife. Veteran RB Cedric Benson is a workhouse coming off of back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. On defense, the Bengals dont have a top-notch pass-rusher. Young LBs Manny Lawson(signed as a free agent) and Rey Maualuga are promising. The Bengals lost CB Jonathan Joseph in free agency. They replaced him with Pro Bowler Nate Clements. Clements and Leon Hall give the Bengals a strong 1-2 punch at cornerback.
Analysis: The Bengals are relying on promising young players this season, which could keep them from contending in the tough AFC North for at least one season.
And now, you get to vote:
NOTE: If the minimum number of votes(100) required for a new poll to come out is not reached, a new poll will NOT be released on Thursday.
Who will win the AFC North?
Pittsburgh Steelers (30 votes)
Baltimore Ravens (17 votes)
Cleveland Browns (5 votes)
Cincinnati Bengals (3 votes)
55 total votes