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Thread: Comparing 2010 AFC North predictions

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    Default Comparing 2010 AFC North predictions

    Comparing 2010 AFC North predictions
    September, 2, 2010
    By James Walker's esteemed panel unveiled it's 2010 predictions Thursday for each division.

    But we're going to take it a step further in the AFC North blog. ESPN The Magazine also made its season predictions (via Football Outsiders). So lets compare notes with all three ESPN entities.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]Baltimore Ravens[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    Walker: First Second
    ESPN The Mag: First
    Cumulative vote: First

    Analysis: This team is stacked on offense and defense, and health permitting, the Ravens could finish in the top 10 in both categories. The only glaring concern is the secondary, which was enough for Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. and ESPN Insider Adam Schefter to pick Baltimore third and likely out of the playoffs. I don't believe the hole at secondary is that debilitating. Cornerbacks Fabian Washington (knee) and Lardarius Webb (knee) are getting healthy and could both be ready for Week 1. General manager Ozzie Newsome also pulled off a solid trade to land Josh Wilson to help with depth. To give you a range of opinions, ESPN The Mag predicts Baltimore will go 11-5 and win Super Bowl XLV. Although my Super Bowl pick is the Indianapolis Colts, I agree the Ravens are among a handful of strong contenders.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]Cincinnati Bengals[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    Walker: Second First
    ESPN The Mag: Third
    Cumulative vote: Second

    Analysis: With the Bengals' history of instability, it's no surprise predictions are all over the place. It ranges from 2010 division champ ( to third place at 7-9 and out of the playoffs (ESPN The Mag). I'm in between. I think the Bengals will be a good second-place team in the division and will grab a wild-card spot. I've covered this division in some fashion since 2004, and this is most talented team I've seen in Cincinnati in that span. This group is tougher and more professional than the 2005 squad, which didn't know how to handle success because it didn't have any the year prior. Chad Ochocinco says it will be a shame if the Bengals don't win the Super Bowl. I wouldn't go that far. But if the Bengals stay healthy, they're good enough to earn a wild card and give themselves a shot to have postseason success.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]Pittsburgh Steelers[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    Walker: Third Third
    ESPN The Mag: Second
    Cumulative vote: Third

    Analysis: I like this year's Steelers and the way they go about their business. But quarterback is the NFL's most important position, and I'm not confident the offense can produce without Ben Roethlisberger for at least four games. ESPN The Mag, which picked Pittsburgh second, appears to have more confidence in the offense under Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. "RB Rashard Mendenhall piles up 100 yards per game during Big Ben's suspension," according to ESPN The Magazine. In my opinion, if Pittsburgh is .500 when Roethlisberger returns, it should be considered a success. From there, the team would be in a good spot to make a run in the second half of the season and push for a wild card.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]Cleveland Browns[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    Walker: Fourth Fourth
    ESPN The Mag: Fourth
    Cumulative vote: Fourth

    Analysis: Cleveland was the only AFC North team all three entities agreed on. From everything I've seen, the Browns are too short on talent to be a contender. I think the Browns are scrappy and have potential to play smart football, especially if Jake Delhomme has a bounce-back season at quarterback. But I'd be surprised if Cleveland wins more than a game or two in the AFC North this season. If you canít win in the division, you probably won't have a successful season.
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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    Default Re: Comparing 2010 AFC North predictions

    Quote Originally Posted by NKySteeler View Post
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    Cleveland Browns

    Walker: Fourth Fourth
    ESPN The Mag: Fourth
    Cumulative vote: Fourth
    Well that's pretty consistent!!!

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    Default Re: Comparing 2010 AFC North predictions

    Here's another article comparing the North from SI: Apparently these guys are not smoking the same crack Peter King is:

    Posted: Thursday September 2, 2010 11:17AM ; Updated: Thursday September 2, 2010 11:26AM

    Don Banks>INSIDE THE NFL
    More ColumnsEmail Don BanksFollow Don Banks on
    AFC North preview (cont.)


    James Harrison is one reason why the Steelers' 3-4 defense is one of NFL's best.
    Al Tielemans/SI
    What the Steelers do best: Field the NFL's best outside linebacker tandem.
    Despite their non-playoff season, the 2009 Steelers were No. 3 against the run and fifth-ranked in overall defense. And that was without All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu for most of the year. All that defense starts with Pittsburgh's two outside linebackers, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. One of them, we just can't decide which, is the best in the business at his position.
    Opponents start their offensive game plans trying to avoid Harrison and Woodley as much as possible, but that's difficult because in the Steelers' 3-4, the outside linebackers usually find the ball. Especially when it's in the quarterbacks hands. Woodley had a team-best 13Ĺ sacks last season, and Harrison was second with 10. They've been the league's leading sack duo among linebackers for two years running, with Harrison totaling 26 in that span and Woodley 25. They're the best, and it's not even close for second.
    What the Steelers need to improve: Kickoff coverage.
    A season is never decided by something as peripheral as kickoff coverage, right? Wrong. In 2009, the Steelers gave up a league-worst four kickoff return touchdowns -- all in a span of five games -- and two of those lapses led directly to losses against Cincinnati and Kansas City. It doesn't take a math major to realize the 9-7 Steelers would have made the playoffs if they had prevented just one of those touchdown returns.
    There were 18 kickoff return touchdowns last year in the NFL's regular season, and Pittsburgh allowed more than 22 percent of them. No other team gave up more than two. Not surprisingly, the Steelers this offseason hired a new special teams coach in Al Everest, replacing Bob Ligashesky, and Everest has focused like a laser this preseason on tightening up the coverage lanes. The Steelers will probably have to wait until their fifth game to really know if their Achilles heel has improved. That's when Cleveland's Josh Cribbs brings his return skills to Heinz Field.
    Which Steeler(s) needs to step up: Reserve quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon.
    With Roethlisberger suspended for at least the first month of the season, September is kind of about survival in Pittsburgh. The Steelers can't make their season in Weeks 1-4, but they can certainly break it with an 0-4 or 1-3 start. And that's why Leftwich or Dixon will be pivotal. Whoever is given the temporary starting quarterback job by head coach Mike Tomlin, finding a way to at least break even at 2-2 will be the challenge.
    Neither quarterback has inspired a lot of confidence this preseason, but the Steelers are a .500 team in the games that Roethlisberger has missed since he assumed the No. 1 job in early 2004, and that's all they need out of Leftwich or Dixon to keep the 2010 season viable into mid-October.
    Predicted record: 8-8.
    The Steelers can easily rebound this season if Troy Polamalu returns strong to the defensive lineup and the special-team units don't betray them. But who knows how the team will react without Roethlisberger early, and a three-game midseason road trip to Miami, New Orleans and Cincinnati looks daunting from afar. My sense is nothing will come easily for Pittsburgh this season, and third place in the tough AFC North will again be their fate.

    Peter King: Steelers preview
    Source: SI
    In his own One Minute Drill,'s Peter King previews the Steelers and gives his prediction for the season.

    Full Article:

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