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NFL Division Previews: AFC North Preview
1. Baltimore Ravens, +190
Since the Ravens drafted quarterback Joe Flacco and hired head coach John Harbaugh in 2008, the Ravens have been one of the NFL's most successful franchises, never finishing with a losing record and only missing the playoffs once. Flacco, a Super Bowl MVP, has not missed a game in his career and his health, as well as his poise under pressure are one of the main reasons the Ravens are consistently a playoff team and Super Bowl contender.
Of course the Ravens have one of the best defenses in the league. Former defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs leads a defensive unit that ranked in the top 10 last season in most defensive statistics, including rushing yards allowed and points allowed. The Ravens did trade away nose tackle Haloti Ngata, a pro bowler and important piece in their defensive system, but Ozzie Smith is one of the league’s best general managers and does not make many poor decisions.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers, +190
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been progressively shifting away from the defensive mindset of their dynasty days and are now one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown create a three-headed offensive juggernaut. Arguments can be made that both Brown and Bell are the top player at their respective positions, while Big Ben has two Super Bowls rings and lead the NFL in passing yards last season.
The defense for the Steelers is currently transitioning, as most of the older players from their last few Super Bowl appearances have been released or retired, including the iconic Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor (both players were selected by the Steelers in 2003). Combined with the departure of long time defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau, the Steelers defense is now in a complete overhaul and is the single reason the Ravens have a slight edge in the highly competitive division.
3. Cincinnati Bengals, +220
The Bengals have made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons (their longest streak in the franchise’s history), but haven’t been able to escape the first round. The team has drafted well over the past few seasons and has built a good core of young players. The issue has been quarterback Andy Dalton’s inability to win important and primetime games. Dalton is 3-5 during regular season prime team games and 0-4 as a starter in the playoffs. After four years of struggling on the big stage, it’s time for Dalton to take a big step forward or the Bengals will need to start thinking about getting a new QB.
The Bengals are talent rich on both sides of the ball. On offense they have one of the league’s best receivers in A.J Green and a deep backfield with running backs Jeremy Hill Giovani Bernard. On the defensive side of the ball linebacker Vontaze Burfict leads a solid group that should improve in 2015 with the return of defensive end Michael Johnson to play alongside all-pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
4. Cleveland Browns, +900
The Browns nearly righted the ship last season and were in the playoff hunt until a late season collapse lead them to lose their final 5 game of the 2014 season. The biggest plague the franchise has been facing as of late has been at the quarterback position. Last year the Browns used their first round pick to draft the notorious Johnny Manziel. The former Heisman winner has not lived up to the hype in his brief NFL career and is now more known for his off field behaviour than his on field play. The Browns signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown in the offseason to help Manziel develop into a better QB and the franchise hopes he can mature over the offseason
The Browns have talent on the team, especially on the offensive line and in the secondary, but their lack of consistency at the quarterback spot, and to a lesser extent in the receiving core, has been the reason the Browns haven’t made the playoffs since 2002.
Category : Betting PicksMore articles...
Two unbeatens enter the octagon on Sept. 26 at UFC 253 with the UFC world middleweight championship belt on the line. Israel Adesanya (19-0) puts his title up for grabs against Brazilian Paulo Costa, who is 13-0. The Nigerian-born Adesanya, who fights out of New Zealand, holds a height (1.93m-1.85m) and a reach (203.2-182.9) advantage over Costa. In terms of age, Costa, 29, is two years younger than Adesanya, 31.