LOUIS Ross (@LouisRoss67) sticks the knife into the Cleveland Browns in his AFC North preview.
AFC North | 11th September 2016
It’s very difficult to predict any teams season without referring to the previous one. In the case of the Baltimore Ravens, it is impossible. Every team gets injuries, the Patriots were torn apart by them late in 2015 but I don’t think I have ever seen anything like what happened to Baltimore.
How on earth did they manage to win five games after losing their starting Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Left tackle, Outside and Inside linebackers and about 54 cornerbacks to season ending injuries. Joe Flacco was particularly serious after tearing both his ACL and MCL.
I have absolutely no idea how they will all fare once they return. Steve Smith was not even meant to play this season but didn’t want to end a great career in week 9.
Justin Forsett and Terrance West should continue to provide a decent rushing attack. West has really impressed in camp and could even take the lead role.
If and it is a big if, Flacco, Forsett, Smith and Tyrell Suggs can come back as good as they were before then John Harbaugh’s only leading season could be a distant memory.
Prediction: Not a clue. 8-8 would probably be a result at this moment. You’re on your own here.
So Bengals go 11-5 and lose in the first week of the post season. Something like that has happened five years in a row now and it is probably a fair bet that at least one part of that sequence will happen again. Marvin Lewis needs to find a way of breaking the one and done culture.
Last season was particularly painful as it was very much self inflicted. A wild card weekend loss to the hated Steelers in a game that was won until a series of stupid personal penalties late in the game which ended in defeat and a three game suspension for the biggest idiot of all, Vontaze Burfict.
Andy Dalton is to my eye a very underrated Quarterback. Coming into his sixth season, Dalton is now protecting the nut better than ever. Just seven interceptions in 2015 is outstanding.
AJ Green his elite receiver improves year on year but after the departures of Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones will need some support. Brandon LaFell is the apparent number two but 2nd round draft pick Tyler Boyd will be expected to challenge that position after an impressive preseason.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has departed for Clevelend and Ken Zampese steps up after 13 years as the Quarterbacks coach. Geno Atkins will lead an imposing front seven on the defensive side of the ball. Pacman Jones and George Iloka will be joined by first round draft pick William Jackson patrolling the secondary
Prediction: 12-4 and not one and done
You really have to feel for the Browns fans. How on earth do you come back from 3-13 and the horrors of an offence led by (if led is the right word) Austin Davis, Josh McCown and when he could stay out of jail, Johnny Manziel.
Well, the soap opera that is the front office continues as they settle on a fourth head coach in five years. You would think that after the drama of the Quarterback position over the last few years that they would have gone for a safe pair of hands. Instead it’s the RG3 circus.
Yep, they have gone with Reginald Griffin III as the man. Not a journeyman to steer them towards the middle of the pack. Not at all.
Griffin was almost an industry before he had even suited up in Washington. He tried to the live up to the role of messiah that the Skins were looking for but his style of play left him wide open to big hits and injury inevitably followed. His three years in the nations capital were certainly up and down.
Hue Jackson has just about the hardest job in football. I am really not sure he has a lot to work with. Josh Gordon is potentially a 1400 yard receiver if he can stay off the funny fags long enough.
Terrelle Pryor you may remember as a Quarterback employed by five different teams in five years is now a Wide Receiver and apparently a very good one.
He could be a bit of a Fantasy bargain if Griffin has retained his arm strength. Duke Johnson had a reasonable season at Running Back as a rookie. I really don’t want to even talk about the defence.
Prediction: Challenging San Francisco for the first pick in next years draft
For most of this offseason, I have assumed that the Steelers would play a huge part in my betting plans for 2016. I don’t know quite why but that’s kind of changed. A lot.
Antonio Brown is still the best Wide Receiver in the NFL and almost guaranteed to get you a stack of Fantasy points if you were lucky enough to grab him.
Roethlisberger is as good as ever at 33. For most NFL fans, the idea that Big Ben is 33 is frightening. This explosive offence which ranked third overall in yards per game will once again start the season without Le’Veon Bell who has picked up another suspension for substance abuse. However, DeAngelo Williams should once again provide more than adequate cover.
Jesse James has a monumental task filling the gap left by Heath Millers recent retirement. The only real gaps on offence are alternatives to Brown with Martavis Bryant missing the entire season.
Sammie Coates caught the eye with some big playoff catches and will be expected to improve in his second year. Pittsburgh do have a problem taking heat off of Brown although you have to say Antonio handles ‘heat’ pretty well.
Now my assumption that Pittsburgh were a valid bet to win the whole thing falls down a little on the defence. They have almost no Secondary even after burning a first round pick on Artie Burns.
This is not the Steel Curtain of old by any means. The pass defence ranked a pathetic 30th in 2015 and the old saying ”Defence wins Championships” may be heard many times late in the season in Pittsburgh
Prediction: 11-5 not quite enough in the Playoffs