AFC North – 2010 NFL Season Preview

2009 Standings at Season’s End

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)
  4. Cleveland Browns (5-11)

Quick show of hands – without looking, who remembered that the Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North in 2009? I’m guessing I won’t see too many hands, because the Bengals had possibly one of the quietest runs to the division title last year. While perennial stalwarts in the Ravens and Steelers put up good years, when push came to shove in 2009, they just couldn’t seem to beat the Bengals. Most analysts are picking them to win it all again, but it’s 16 game season (well, 13 if you’re Big Ben) and anything can happen.

Cincinnati Bengals LogoCincinnati Bengals

While this team’s depth might not blow anyone away, they have a good looking roster for 2010 on paper. Chad Ochocinco is a top tier receiver, and stone hands or no, TO is still a threat once he actually catches the ball. With two of the biggest mouths in football at wideout, this team has the potential to be all bark and no bite but Carson Palmer should do a good enough job of getting them the ball to win some games. The only thing that can derail this team from another division title is the cancerous locker room presence of Terrell Owens. He has singlehandedly brought down the last 3 franchises he has been a part of, which makes his presence a huge risk but it should work out for the Bengals in the end.

Cincinnati Bengals 2010 Prediction

This season could rest on Carson Palmer’s ability to keep T.O. happy and relatively quiet. Unfortunately, winning ball games doesn’t always do the trick with T.O. so this task is easier said than done. This is the first time that Owens has ever had to compete for media time from other players, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if he pulled some stunts in order to out-do Ochocinco. I predict that the Bengals will reach the halfway mark at a respectable 6-2, but will implode down the stretch thanks to T.O. They will finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens LogoBaltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco is the new face of the Ravens, essentially replacing Ray Lewis. The Ravens are still a top 10 defense, but in terms of marketability, Flacco is just a much better option. Flacco, in my mind is developing much the same way that Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers did. He is an effective QB, won’t make too many mistakes, but probably can’t win a game with his arm. He posted just over 3,600 yards through the air last season which is great by many standards, but Ray Rice is still the motor that makes this machine run. The Ravens are dangerous because, like I mentioned before, the emergence of Flacco has made many forget just how dominant this defense really is. The addition of Anquan Boldin to the WR corps will also help Flacco out, as he now has one more reliable target to throw to.

Baltimore Ravens 2010 Prediction

There is no doubt in my mind that the Ravens will take the AFC North in 2010. They return one of the league’s top rushing attacks and complement it with an upgraded passing attack. Although the defense is aging a bit, they are still just as formidable as ever, and will give Flacco and this dangerous offense a short field to work with most of the season. Look for the Ravens to go 11-5 on their way to another AFC playoff spot.

Pittsburgh Steelers LogoPittsburgh Steelers

This team lost quite a bit of talent during the offseason, and will be without Big Ben for at least three games to kick off the 2010 season. No offense to Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwitch, or whoever is under center to start the season; but the Steelers will not win a single game that Ben doesn’t play in. They will potentially be 0-3, if not worse to start off the season, seeing as Ben’s first game back could be against Baltimore. This team has all of the heart and some young capable talent, but the leadership is clearly lacking. Mike Tomlin will have a hard time getting through to his players this season, as the core of his offense includes names he butted heads with last year. This will be another disappointing year for the Steelers who are just 2 years removed from a Super Bowl Ring.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Prediction

No Ben = No Wins for the Steelers who will falter out of the gate. Furthermore, this team is too young and inexperienced to roll with the punches and their slow start will just snowball into a double digit loss season. They will be near the bottom of the pile in the AFC North at 6-10.

Cleveland Browns LogoCleveland Browns

Gosh, I couldn’t even tell you who is on this team with the exception of Joshua Cribbs. Thankfully they will be giving up a lot of touchdowns which means that we will get to see Cribbs return a lot of kicks this year. This is a team that actually saw a downgrade at QB, as they now boast Jake Delhomme under center. They were the worst ranked passing offense in 2009, and they actually got arguably worse at QB – not a good sign for a team that has been in rebuilding mode for the last 5 or so years. When they run the ball, they have potential, but the league should know the name of Jerome Harrison by now. See how educational this was? We started off not knowing the names of any Cleveland Browns and now we know 4.

Cleveland Browns 2010 Prediction

Cleveland will be begging for a record like they had last season (5-11) as they transition into the worst team in the league this year. I see them conceivably having a chance to lose every game on their schedule in 2010, but I will be kind. 2-14 thanks to games against Carolina and Buffalo late in the season when all hope is lost.

2010 AFC North Predicted Final Standings

  1. Baltimore Ravens (11-4)
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-10)
  4. Cleveland Browns (2-14)