Though historically one of the the stronger divisions in the NFL, the AFC North experienced somewhat of a down year in 2015. We take a look at the AFC North’s path to Super Bowl 51 in Houston.
Last Year (2015): Cincinnati Bengals (12-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6), Baltimore Ravens (5-11), Cleveland Browns (3-13)
The Cincinnati Bengals saw one of their best seasons in nearly a decade in 2015, yet continued to show their playoff woes. Following quarterback Andy Dalton’s broken thumb, Cincy was relegated to rely on QB A.J. McCarron, who struggled mightily in the playoffs.
The Steelers, who were hot and cold throughout the season, made it into the playoffs before losing to the New England Patriots in the divisional round. The team returns its core of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown on offense, regaining the services of running back Le’Veon Bell following a knee injury in 2015.
The Baltimore Ravens are still reeling from their 2015 campaign, which saw a devastating knee injury sustained to QB Joe Flacco in the closing weeks of the season. Flacco plans to be ready to play at the beginning of the season, at what form or level remains to be seen.
And the Cleveland Browns. Well, they were the Cleveland Browns in 2015. The team is hoping to utilize the services of quarterback and former #2 pick Robert Griffin III, following the release of Johnny Manziel. The team, with new head coach Hue Jackson, looks to try and end the “Cleveland curse,” but still remains quite a mess.
Prediction: The Bengals will continue to rule the roost, in close contention with the Steelers. The drop from #2 to #3 in the division is a cliff.