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SNAP CENTRAL | PREVIEWS: NCAA Top 25 | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West | AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
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NFL Pro Football 2012 AFC North Preview

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Fearless Rick's NFL Preview - AFC North

Rick Gagliano | July 29, 2012

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

2011 record: 12-4

Predicted finish: 11-5

Head Coach: John Harbaugh

Departed: WR Derrick Mason, CB Domonique Foxworth, RB Ricky Williams, WR Lee Evans

Incoming: QB Curtis Painter, WR Devin Goda, WR Dorian Graham, DT-DE Elliott Henigan, NT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, NT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, G Antoine McClain, DE Terrence Moore, RB Brandon Pendergrass, QB John Brantley, TE Matt Balasavage, LB Nigel Carr, TE Bruce Figgins, CB Jordan Mabin, QB Chester Stewart, RB Bernard Pierce, WR Jacoby Jones

Strengths: Defense. Probaby the best all-purpose defense in the BFL over the past five seasons, the Ravens were third in points allowed (16.6), second in rushing yards allowed (92.6) and third in passing yards allowed (196.3) last season and led the league in forced fumbles with 21.

Weaknesses: Passing attack. Joe Flacco didn't have the best receivers with him and there needs to be a replacement for Derrick Mason, who announced his retirement during the off-season. Jacoby Jones and Dorian Graham could help.

Key Games: Sun, Sep 16 at Philadelphia; Sun Sep 23 vs. New England; Sun, Oct 21 at Houston; Sun, Nov 18 at Pittsburgh

What if?: The Ravens win their first three games against Cincinnati, at Philly and home against New England?

They could go into their bye week at 7-0, improvinging to 9-0 with wins over Cleveland and Oakland before facing the Steelers on November 18.


Pittsburgh Steelers

2011 record: 12-4

Predicted finish: 11-5

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin

Departed: QB Troy Smith, RB Mewelde Moore, WR Hines Ward, WR Arnez Battle, NT Chris Hoke, TE Wes Lyons, LB Brandon Lindsey, LB James Farrior, DE Aaron Smith, OT Jonathan Scott

Incoming: RB Albert Young, TE Leonard Pope, TE Wes Lyons, FB Will Johnson, OL Kelvin Beachum, WR Toney Clemons, LB Brandon Johnson, LS Matt Katula, OT Bridger Buche

Strengths: Defense. The Steelers led the league in points allowed (14.2), yards per game (271.8) and passing yardage allowed (171.9) and are banking on their veterans to turn in another yeoman-like effort in 2012.

Weaknesses: None to speak of, as the Steelers have one of the most balanced attacks in the league and will put the hammer down with Rashard Mendenhall running the ball with any second half lead. They will need to find replacements for receivers Hines Ward and Arnez Battle.

Key Games: Sun, Sep 9 at Denver; Sun, Sep 16 vs. NY Jets; Sun, Nov 4 at NY Giants; Sun, Nov 18 vs. Baltimore; Sun, Dec 2 at Baltimore

What if?: Ben Roethlisberger gets banged up like he did last season?

That shouldn't be muchof a problem as the Steeler defense will likely rise to the occasion. On the other hand, if Big Ben stays healthy, they could take the division and make strides through the playoffs for a return to the Super Bowl.


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Cincinnati Bengals

2011 record: 9-7

Predicted finish: 9-7

Head Coach: Marvin Lewis

Departed: LB Keith Rivers, CB Rico Murray, WR Andre Caldwell, WR Jerome Simpson, TE Chase Coffman, TE Bo Scaife

Incoming: DT Devon Still, TE Orson Charles, WR Marvin Jones, S Tony Dye, E Julian Miller, WR Kashif Moore, WR Taveon Rogers, OL Mike Ryan, G Matt Murphy, WR Mohamed Sanu, DT Brandon Thompson, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, DE Derrick Harvey, TE Donald Lee, LB Dan Skuta

Strengths: Defense. The Bengals ranked 9th and 10th in passing yards and rushing yards allowed last season. Unfortunately, they play in the same division as the Steelers and Ravens, who are even better.

Weaknesses: Having to play in the same division as the Ravens and Steelers. The Bengals are a pretty high-quality group, but they're stuck in the NFL's most rugged division.

Key Games: Mon, Sep 10 at Baltimore; Sun, Oct 21 vs. Pittsburgh; Sun, Nov 18 at Kansas City; Thu, Dec 13 at Philadelphia; Sun, Dec 23 at Pittsburgh; Sun, Dec 30 vs. Baltimore

What if?: Marvin Lewis wasn't the head coach?

The Bengals would be even worse. Lewis is an excellent head coach, and under his tutelage, Cincinnati gets the most mileage out of their players.

If QB Andy Dalton continues to improve or Pittsburgh or Baltimore falter, the Bengals could realistically reach the playoffs.

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Cleveland Browns

2011 record: 4-12

Predicted finish: 5-11

Head Coach: Pat Shurmur

Departed: RB Peyton HIllis, DE Jayme Mitchell, G Eric Steinbach, RB Armond Smith

Incoming: QB Brandon Weeden, RB Trent Richardson, WR Josh Gordon, P Spencer Lanning, DB Mike Allen, OL Jake Anderson, DB Johnson Bademosi, OL Matt Cleveland, WR Josh Cooper, DB Emanuel Davis, LB L.J. Fort, OL Garth Gerhart, DB Tashaun Gipson, DL William Green, DB Antwuan Reed, WR Bert Reed, WR Jermaine Saffold, LB Emmanuel Acho, LB JoJo Dickson, RB Adonis Thomas

Strengths: Defensive secondary. The Browns were an amazing 2nd overall in pass defense in 2011, allowing a mere 184.9 yards per outing, though maybe that was because they couldn't stop the run, ranked 30th.

Weaknesses: Run defense. The whole offense. Cleveland scored an average of just 13.6 points per game in 2011. Only Kansas Vity and St. Louis were worse. The Browns had a productive draft, so they could be slightly better with rookies this season.

Key Games: All of them.

What if?: The Browns played in a different division?

They'd have a chance at making the playoffs. Having to play Pittsburgh and Baltimore twice each season practically eliminates them from the playoffs every year.

Copyright 2012, 2013, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.

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