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No one really knows what to expect from the Cincinnati Bengals or the Pittsburgh Steelers. The former has a lot of potential and an equal number of question marks, and the latter is coming off its biggest disappointment in the decade amidst rape allegations and a slap-on-the-wrist suspension for its quarterback.
At least we can rely on the Ravens to continue to dominate (hopefully not as well as they did in the first round of the playoffs against New England last year) and the Browns to carry on the Curse of the Mangini as first overall pick candidates.
1. Ravens – This is the year that Baltimore turns into an offensive power, after years of leaning on their strong defense.
2. Bengals – They’ll still run the ball a bunch, but with a new toy for Carson Palmer to throw to in T.O., there’s no doubt Cincy will be in the playoff mix come wintertime.
3. Steelers – Pittsburgh’s season will hinge on how they fare without Big Ben. By the time he comes back, the Steelers could already be out of it.
4. Browns – Even with new QB Jake Delhomme under center, the Cleveland Browns fans are in for yet another disappointing season in the dawg pound.
1. Ravens – Adding some talent (Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh) to Joe Flacco’s arsenal will only add to the maturity he showed late last season. Throw in Ray Rice and one of the league’s toughest run defenses and Baltimore has a Super Bowl contender.
2. Bengals – A solid team that surprised everyone last year, but will have trouble repeating it. Adding T.O. will only really help them on VH1, and I don’t expect Cedric Benson to repeat his 2009 performance in which he thrived against teams that didn’t expect him to do anything. Not a bad team, but only a second-best team.
3. Steelers – They might eek out two wins during Ben’s suspension (especially with Byron Leftwich injured), but a tough schedule and inconsistency carried over from last year will lead to another season of disappointment and mediocrity for the Steelers.
4. Browns – Bill Simmons said it best when he pointed out how bringing in Jake Delhomme was actually a step backwards, after he put up one of the all-time worst quarterback performances for Carolina last year. They have some bright young guys (Mohammed Massaquoi, Joe Thomas, Colt McCoy and Joe Haden) but will need a little time and a coach that isn’t Eric Mangini to make them into a good team. However, expect McCoy to take over after a few dismal weeks of Jake Delhomme, and begin running a quality West Coast offense in Cleveland.
1. Ravens – They have the defense, they have the rushing game, they’re basically the Jets of the D.C. area.
2. Bengals – The Bengals just aren’t built to sustain good seasons, and T.O. can’t hurt, but he can’t help now, either.
3. Steelers – Big Ben is gone for four games, and he’ll probably be rusty a little afterwards.
4. Browns – They draft Colt McCoy, then have so little confidence in him they don’t even give him the chance to compete for the starting job?
1. Ravens – They showed flashes last season, but this should be the year it all comes together for the Ravens. A high-powered offense is now paired with the usual tough defense in Baltimore.
2. Bengals – So much talent, but will the addition of Terrell Owens hurt Carson Palmer and the Bengals? Only time will tell.
3. Steelers – The Steelers are paying dearly for Ben Roethlisberger’s selfish acts, including his alleged sexual assault of a college student earlier this year. While his six-game suspension was reduced to four, it’s likely the Steelers will still miss out on postseason play.
4. Browns – Far too little talent to compete in the AFC, and another losing season will likely mean their coach (Eric Mangini) isn’t going to have a job next season.