Quarterback Issues Make AFC North Hard to Call
The NFL’s AFC North remains one of the most competitive divisions in the league. The AFC North has been tough to predict as three teams every season seem to have a legitimate shot to the top. We can’t count anyone out per the NFL AFC North wins tallies, which forecast a tight race from top to bottom.
The biggest question marks in the division are the status of several quarterback positions. This is headlined by the Cleveland Browns’ newest acquisition; three-time Pro Bowler Deshaun Watson, who is still awaiting a verdict for the ongoing investigation of allegations against him.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have their quarterback status up in the air after longtime signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger called it quits. They drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round but also signed Mitchell Trubisky not long before that.
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens feature the two best quarterbacks in the division in Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson, respectively, however, both have also missed significant time due to injuries. If they get banged up again, their teams will suffer greatly thus making the AFC North rankings more chaotic.
The Baltimore Ravens were ravaged by injuries to finish the previous season. They plummeted from the top of the AFC North to the bottom in the final two months. NFL AFC North wins project Baltimore to win around nine games this season at juiced odds so a winning season is at least plausible even with the turnover.
The most notable move Baltimore made is to jettison Marquise “Hollywood” Brown who was Lamar Jackson’s favorite target and friend. As a consolation, the Ravens bolstered the offensive line by drafting center Tyler Linderbaum with their 25th pick.
The team also addressed their defense, which finished 19th last season after three straight top-three finishes. Injuries and COVID absences did heavily deteriorate the unit’s performance. The Ravens used most of their picks and signings on this side of the ball. Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams should improve safety play significantly.
The 2021 AFC North Champions are tied with Baltimore and Cleveland in terms of odds to win the division. Per their NFL AFC North Wins tally, the Bengals have received plenty of support to win at least 10 this season after opening at 9½. It’s not surprising considering this team made the Super Bowl and has one of the five best quarterbacks in the league in Joe Burrow.
Not even the shrewdest NFL betting tips predicted the Bengals to make it all the way to the Super Bowl last season. But this team will hardly catch anyone by surprise this season. Cincinnati managed to go that far despite one of the worst offensive lines and an injury-laden defense, both of which the team has tried to fix this offseason.
The Bengals are giving Burrow more protection in front namely La’el Collins, Ted Karras, and when he’s back from injury, Alex Cappa. On the defensive side, the Bengals used five of their six draft picks to take defenders led by safety Daxton Hill in Round 1.
The city of Cleveland waits with bated breath for the fate of their new quarterback messiah. We’re talking about Baker Mayfield of course. Who’s that Deshaun Watson guy? Apparently, he’s really good too – like he led the NFL in passing yards the last time he was active. But whether it’s Mayfield or Watson, the Browns could return to form.
The team regressed in 2021 and made a few changes by swapping Jarvis Landry for Amari Cooper. Cleveland still has one of the best defenses in the conference and managed to keep the core intact. If Watson is suspended and Mayfield won’t play, quarterbacking duties will go to another new acquisition in Jacoby Brissett.
While the 29-year-old won’t set the NFL on fire, he is a veteran and has experience as a starter. Is he good enough to keep Cleveland afloat until Watson returns? This team is one to watch as the season winds down. Cleveland has the best odds to win the Super Bowl from the division even if their NFL AFC North wins remain a mystery.
Once upon a time, the Pittsburgh Steelers were no worse than second on the betting lines to win the division. But Pittsburgh finds itself as the worst AFC North team thanks to too many question marks surrounding the team. While Pittsburgh did rally late last season to squeak into the postseason, it was clear this team was floundering compared to its counterparts.
The Steelers faithful hope Kenny Pickett is the real deal. But there are plenty of red flags with the hometown kid. Pickett has small hands and fumbles a lot, which could be exacerbated by the city’s cold temperatures late in the season. Unless Mitchell Trubisky has a renaissance, which is possible, Pittsburgh could have the worst quarterback play in the conference.
As for its vaunted defense, Pittsburgh finished 20th last season. The team had the worst rushing defense. Mike Tomlin has never coached a losing season but there is a first time for everything as Pittsburgh’s win totals are just at 7½ and they are expected to miss the playoffs.Follow us on Twitter