(CBS Pittsburgh) — The Pittsburgh Steelers received the AFC North final yr, solely to face the Cleveland Browns within the Wild Card spherical. The Browns, making the playoffs for the primary time in virtually 20 years, disbursed with the Steelers at house. Then they virtually toppled the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs the following week. The Baltimore Ravens additionally received their Wild Card sport, solely to get dealt with by the Buffalo Payments. The division could very effectively find yourself with three playoff groups once more, however count on the order to be a bit totally different.
Cleveland is the early favourite to win the AFC North, as CBS Pittsburgh sports activities anchor Bob Pompeani sees it. “…they’ve actually fortified themselves they usually’ve stayed away from substantial damage. The Steelers have a whole lot of issues they’re coping with from the damage perspective, as they head into Week 1, and Baltimore similar manner. Cincinnati is a group that’s up and coming. However I don’t suppose they’ve sufficient but. So I might suppose Cleveland, that is their division to lose.”
“They’re stacked,” Pompeani continued, “and they’re able to take the following step after they got here to Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers final yr.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield improved on his first two seasons, and he has the gamers round him to make one other soar. The offensive line is among the many finest within the league. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt mixed for over 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns on the bottom. After an injury-shortened season, Odell Beckham will as soon as once more line up reverse Jarvis Landry.
The Browns protection was a middling unit final season, regardless of the presence of Myles Garrett. However offseason additions could elevate it sufficient to make them a perennial contender. The group was lively in free company, bringing in defensive finish Jadeveon Clowney, defensive sort out Malik Jackson, linebacker Anthony Walker, and security John Johnson. The NFL Draft additionally yielded cornerback Greg Newsome and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. A loaded protection ought to assist them comprise the quarterback expertise they are going to face inside the division alone.
That begins with Ben Roethlisberger, a future Corridor of Famer nearing the tip of his profession. He has the weapons to place up numbers, together with a trio of proficient large receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool for first-round choice Najee Harris. Nevertheless it’s unclear if he may have the blocking to execute.
“With the Steelers, the query is offensive line,” Pompeani identified. “Simply at this time, Zach Banner went on IR. He’s a sort out. They’ve shifted guys round. They’ve a rookie beginning at left sort out. That’s by no means simple in a division that has a whole lot of guys who can get to the quarterback. And Ben Roethlisberger, at 39, might be profitable, however that line will dictate how profitable he might be or not.”
The Steelers protection has led the NFL in sacks with over 50 for 4 years operating. And final yr T.J. Watt had 15 of them, adequate to guide the NFL amongst gamers. The runner-up for Defensive Player of the 12 months seems near getting a contract extension, which might make him the League’s highest-paid defensive player. The group misplaced a number of contributors this previous offseason, together with linebackers Bud Dupree and Vince Williams and cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton. Nevertheless it nonetheless strains up lineman Cameron Heyward, security Minkah Fitzpatrick, and cornerback Joe Haden.
The Ravens line up behind Lamar Jackson, one of the dynamic gamers within the NFL at this time. And their success will rely upon his success. However he’ll want the items round him to win video games, and accidents have already began to have an effect on the group.
“So far as Baltimore, Lamar Jackson is an MVP,” Pompeani notes. “However final yr the numbers dropped off. I feel the league could also be catching as much as him. They usually lost J.K. Dobbins, and others on their protection. So Gus Edwards might be a person who might be checked out very, very significantly as a man who can tote the ball. Can he do it as a daily featured again?”
The Ravens led the NFL in dashing final season, with Jackson topping 1,000 yards on his personal. Edwards must choose up the slack, together with Justice Hill and Ty’Son Williams. The Ravens’ passing offense was final within the NFL final season. Jackson has loads of weapons, nevertheless, together with tight finish Mark Andrews. Accidents have been a difficulty right here too. Receiver Marquise Brown noticed restricted motion in coaching camp, and loads of different receivers additionally missed time. Sammy Watkins, signed this previous offseason from the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, ought to have the ability to stretch the sphere along with his pace, if he’s wholesome.
The Ravens protection, which was prime 10 towards the run and cross final season, stays one of many NFL’s higher items. They added linebacker Justin Houston, who has a robust historical past of attending to the quarterback, in addition to linebacker Odafe Oweh late within the first spherical. Cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are each among the many NFL’s finest. Linebacker Patrick Queen and is enhancing, and sort out Justin Madubuike has seemed good within the preseason. Actually, the entire protection has impressed within the preseason (for what it’s price), permitting below a landing per sport within the preseason.
The Bengals stay far behind their division rivals, although they’re making progress. Welcoming again Joe Burrow is an enormous step ahead for them. He’ll have large receiver Ja’Marr Chase to throw to as soon as once more, after the Bengals drafted him within the first spherical. Guard Jackson Carman, taken within the second spherical, will assist maintain Burrow upright. Extra adjustments alongside the offensive line may assist defend Burrow, although it’s unclear how efficient they are going to be.
“In Cincinnati, it’s all about Joe Burrow, his well being getting back from his damage and surgical procedure,” says Pompeani. “They’re nonetheless awhile away from being a aggressive group, however how he goes will dictate how they go. And if he has a great yr bouncing again from that surgical procedure — and that’s by no means simple — then you possibly can look to them, possibly, subsequent yr as a group that’s near being a playoff group, however not this yr.”
The Bengals protection struggled final season, particularly towards the run, the place they gave up 148 yards per sport. They need to enhance considerably this season with the addition of defensive finish Trey Hendrickson from the New Orleans Saints and defensive sort out Larry Ogunjobi from the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals additionally drafted defensive finish Joseph Ossai within the third spherical, however he’ll miss the season with a knee damage. Ex-Dallas Cowboy Chidobe Awuzie takes over one of many nook spots.
The AFC North kicks off the season within the highlight because the Browns face the Chiefs in CBS’s Week 1 Sport of the Week
https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2021/09/03/afc-north-preview-browns-bengals-ravens-steelers/ | ‘Cleveland, This Is Their Division To Lose,’ Says CBS Pittsburgh’s Bob Pompeani – CBS New York