AFC North 2021 Predictions

Source: CNN

The AFC North division looks to be one of the strongest divisions and deepest divisions in the NFL this upcoming season. The Ravens will have the Steelers and surging Browns nipping behind them. The Bengals will also look to improve upon last season with a healthy Joe Burrow. How will the division shape out? Let’s see.

Baltimore Ravens

Key Additions

Sammy Watkins WR

Tyus Bowser LB

Key Losses

Matt Judon DE

Yannick Ngakoue DE

All eyes were on Lamar Jackson last season after his 2019 MVP season. Unfortunately Jackson took a step back in 2020, he struggled at times to move the ball and his passing accuracy was an issue. Ravens QB coach James Urban has said Jackson's passes have looked tighter and his 2020 season has motivated him to improve on his weakness. So it seems as though the former MVP is motivated to silence his critics.

Compared to 2019, the Ravens passing attack ranked in the bottom third of the league last season, but despite that they were still a very potent offence thanks in part to their running game. Lamar Jackson's passing might have dipped in 2020, but he still didn't skip a beat running the ball becoming the first QB to rush for 1000 yards in back-to -back seasons. He and Edwards will look to keep the Ravens rushing attack a dangerous one.

Losing Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon to free agency was a big blow. However, the Ravens defence gave up the second fewest points last season because they are one of the deepest squads in the league. Calais Campbell keeps defying his age, making his 6th pro bowl at 34. The former Jag is a big leader in the locker room and will look to continue the Ravens tradition of being an elite defence.

Prediction: (11 W - 6 L) The Ravens should still be a good team, a really good team. Despite losing some key players on defence, they have the depth to still be a tough side to score against. The back end of their schedule could hurt them from winning the North this season. though, but I like the Ravens to nab a wildcard spot.

Cincinnati Bengals

Key Additions

Ja'Marr Chase WR

Trey Hendrickson DE

Key Losses

Giovani bernard RB

Geno Atkins DT

Carl Lawson DE

The Bengals finished 2020 dead last in the AFC North, which was to be expected, but what wasn't expected was Joe Burrows' season ending prematurely. Before tearing his ACL and MCL, Burrow wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire. Though with the roster he's on it wasn’t really a surprise he had little help. The biggest concern for Cincy isn’t winning, but protecting their young QB, but both could a challenge for the struggling franchise.

Burrow wasn’t the only one to be bit by the injury bug, their workhorse running back Joe Mixon was struggling with his health. When on the field Mixon has been a good contributor amassing almost three thousand yards in two and a half seasons, so the Bengals will need him to stay off the IR. Higgins, Boyd, and newly Ja'marr Chase will be a dangerous for a long time, so maybe, just maybe, the Bengals can put teams on their heels through the air.

The Bengals defence has a lot of work to do. Last season, much like their offence, their defence was terrible. The Bengals lack punch, and have very few playmakers so even if Burrow and the gang takes a step forward, their defence will most certainly drag them back. They did sign former Saint Trey Hendrickson, so at least they’re trying. With improvements needed pretty much at every position, it could be another long season on defence.

Prediction: (6 W - 11 L) The Bengals should improve this season. Offensively they have solid pieces to make some noise, though the health of Burrow and Mixon will be critical for them to evolve, but defensively they're still a mess.

Cleveland Browns

Key Additions

Troy Hill CB

John Johnson CB

Key Losses

Oliver Vernon LB

Karl Joseph SS

The Browns made me into a believer after last season. I expected a possible collapse down the stretch but the Browns proved me wrong and added a playoff victory to their 2020 resume. It's going to be interesting to see how they follow up last season, it isn't often they are in a position to contend for the division. It'll be tough to get over the little brother syndrome they've suffered from, but they're primed to have a great season.

Mayfield not only improved with his passing, but he has cut out the turnovers as well. The offensive line also helped with Baker's success. He was sacked just 26 times compared to the 40 sacks they gave up the season prior. Nick Chubb should be one of the top backs in the league once again. Chubb hit a career high 12 rushing td's and garnered another 1000 yard season. Add in OBJ and Landry, this Browns offence looks REALLY good.

The Browns made some upgrades to their secondary, getting a pair of former LA Rams in Troy Hill and John Johnson III. Both players were instrumental in the Rams success against the pass the last few seasons and they should help Cleveland's rush defence as well. Speaking of, their front seven have some monsters rushing the QB. With an improved secondary and a chaos causing front seven, The Land should be bumping this season.

Prediction: (12 W - 5 L) The Browns are not a one year wonder. I trust Baker Mayfield will have another good season and the running game should be dominant once again.Oh, and the defence could be one of the best in the league this season. A run at the division is definitely in the cards.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Key Additions

Najee Harris RB

Tyson Alualu DE

Key Losses

James Conner RB

Maurkice Pouncey C

The Steelers would love to forget how their 2020 season ended. Despite claiming their division, they lost to the Browns in the wildcard round and they could possibly be the worst 11-0 team of all time. The Steelers are coming in with aging Ben Roethlisberger who seems more and more limited in his abilities. The Former two-time Superbowl champ struggled down the stretch and showed his age. They could have a tough time if Big Ben isn't consistent.

The offence itself finished just outside the top ten. None of the Steelers reached the pro bowl and JuJu Smith-Schuster was by far the most disappointing Steeler last season. He averaged just 8.6 yards per reception, which considering his promise years past, it’s a big step back. They’ll look to ride the back of rookie Najee Harris as the inconsistent running game should be a thing of the past.

The steel curtain made a comeback last season. TJ Watt became one of the most dominant players in the league in 2020. As a whole, they led the league in sacks becoming the first team in history to do so for the fourth consecutive season. Pittsburgh has all their big defensive players back for this season, and it could give the Steelers a chance to sneak into the playoffs.

Prediction: (8 W - 9 L) The Steelers will have to hope Big Ben can erase the rough ending of last year. The defense should help keep Pittsburgh in a lot of their games this season, but considering how good the division has become they need a full team effort to stay in the hunt. The odds are against them and the Tomlin-Roethlisberger era could be nearing an end.


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