Wednesday, September 09, 2009

2009 NFL Preview--AFC North

Football season's upon us once again and, though I was shy on the football last season, it's back in full swing now. Since the games begin tomorrow night with an AFC North vs. AFC South matchup, we'll start there, then head East and West.

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5): With no significant changes on either side of the football, Pittsburgh is poised to have a third Super Bowl handed to them by the refs if they can make it into the game. I doubt they will, but if they do, there's little doubt regarding the outcome. This fact isn't so much their fault, though, they were a great team last year and will win the division again this season. The only real question involves the running game, where Willie Parker has been slowed considerably and their backups are utterly unproven. Without a standout year from the backfield, Rothlisberger could be exposed, leaving the door open for Baltimore.

Baltimore Ravens (10-6): The vaunted defense isn't getting any younger, but considering the play from this already old unit last year, I'm not sure it'll make a difference. The older they get, the smarter they play, and I think they're still one of the top in the game. Like every other year, however, the questions pile up on offense. One of the most underwhelming groups in the league, they show no real improvement in personnel for this season. Sure, Flacco will be a little better, but he still has neither a decent receiver to throw to nor a running game to help take the load off his shoulders. If the offense doesn't dramatically overachieve, much like they did in '08, the defense may not be capable of withstanding it.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-9): It's hard to believe I'm actually writing this, but it seems like the Bengals may have a defense that begins to match its offense. That may not equal "good" per se, or even league average, but they'll be better. There are a lot of new faces on that side of the ball who have received favorable reviews, so it's their best chance in years to have a successful season. The offense takes a hit with the loss of TJ Houshmandzadeh, but Lauvernues Coles is still a good receiver. Cedric Benson is just as terrible as he's ever been, so not much change there. They aren't playoff bound by any means, but they now sit solidly at third place in the division instead of only marginally better than Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns (5-11): Ugh. I almost want to leave it at that but, for Trend's benefit at least, I'll go on. The trouble starts with the question, "Do we start Derek Anderson?" NO! If there's any debate on this subject, you need a different quarterback. Jeff Garcia suddenly needs a job, why don't they bring him home. I'd take him over Anderson and Brady Quinn in a heartbeat. Moreover, can they not find a better running back that Jamal Lewis? They may have not gotten the memo, but he's been pretty mediocre for about five years now. Teams had success moving fullbacks into the tailback slot last year, why not try that? They got rid of Kellen Winslow, but kept Braylon Edwards...I don't see the difference. On the plus side, however, I'm a big fan of D'Qwell Jackson, he's one of my favorite non-Broncos, but one man does not make a defense. Even with Jackson, yeah...ugh....