Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 NFL Preview: AFC North

AFC North is a very competitive division with a brutally difficult schedule versus NFC South and AFC East.

Baltimore Ravens offense continues to make strides. They proved capable of really scoring points last year and should find even better balance in the possession-passing game. The bruising line does need to protect better. A-

Baltimore Ravens defense swarms ballcarriers and forces punts. They were outstanding in the red zone. They force turnovers, but the pass rush is slipping. A-

Baltimore Ravens special teams are pretty good, but they have a hole at K. They handle kickoffs better than punts. B+

Baltimore Ravens overall are the most balanced this franchise has ever been. They committed the most penalties in the AFC last year and that must stop. They need to put it all together soon because that great defense is aging. Final Grade: A-

Cincinnati Bengals offense has become a ball control, run-first team without anyone noticing. The passing game suffered, with attempts and results some of the worst in the league. The line wasn’t the problem, either. Depth at RB is a concern, so they must find balance. B

Cincinnati Bengals defense was the surprise of the 2009 season. A solid top-five defense emerged and they seemed especially crafted to dominate their division: they allowed only 13 ppg while sweeping all teams in the AFC North. A-

Cincinnati Bengals special teams return punts well but are mediocre in all other respects. A new K is necessary after the position lost big games for them. C

Cincinnati Bengals overall transformed themselves from a high-flying attack into a traditional NFC North power team. With better balance on offense, this team will again make the playoffs. Final Grade: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers offense will likely have a slow start, facing three good run defenses in their first four games and without their starting QB. The line has been sliding but new blood might help. The Steelers racked up a ton of passing yards but were not efficient in the red zone. They are thin at RB and WR. B-

Pittsburgh Steelers defense is stout but doesn’t make enough plays to win games on their own anymore. Although they didn’t allow many points, injuries made their backfield vulnerable to big plays and they simply could not make stops on 3rd or 4th down. B+

Pittsburgh Steelers special teams return well but were poor in coverage. Their kickers are efficient but not elite. B-

Pittsburgh Steelers overall have a lot to overcome this season, and the combination of a brutal schedule and a more competitive division will put the playoffs out of reach. Final Grade: B

Cleveland Browns offense was the lamest passing attack in the NFL, so they “fixed” the problem by signing the lowest-rated passer in the NFC. They found late success on the ground behind their meaty line, but enter the season with no backup RB and barely any starters at WR. D+

Cleveland Browns defense were balanced: equally terrible versus the run and the pass. They are developing some pass rushers and defended the red zone well, but this defense is a combination of inexperienced youngsters and second-string veterans. C-

Cleveland Browns special teams are led by NFL-best returner Cribbs. They also excelled in coverage. Injury worries at K and P could haunt them, however. A-

Cleveland Browns overall have some pluck, but the personnel is untalented and the coach is a lame duck, no shocker. Final Grade: C-

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