Believe it or not I think this years division race is more wide open then ever with so many question marks and unknowns. The Steelers are by far the favorites on paper going into this season but with age starting to become a factor for the Steelers, who know what is in store for the Black and Gold?
The Ravens are also a team on paper should compete for the division championship but with an aging defense and a quarterback who hopefully enter his sophomore slump and struggle in the 09 season.
The Bengals and Browns are in the bottom of division in most experts predictions and I am going to flip it around.
Carson Palmer and Ocho Cinco return to there old form in becoming of the most dangerous duo’s in the NFL. Remember just a few years ago whey they were the second most explosive offense in the NFL behind the Colts? The Bengals added much needed on the Defensive side of the Ball and Marvin Lewis job is on the line this season.
Cedric Benson showed he can be a productive back the second part of last season. The addition of Coles helps the ease the pain losing T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the offseason.
Week 3 at Home against the Steelers
The Bengals must win this game if they are going to win the Divison like I am predicting..
Week 12 at Home against the Browns
Last division game of the year for the Bengals. Might be a surprise game of the year. With the NFL Flex schedule wouldn’t it be something Browns Vs Bengals “Battle of Ohio” for the division lead in the AFC North..
Cleveland Browns 9-7
Brady Quinn wins the job out of training camp and the Browns come out of the gate strong 2-0. Jamal Lewis has another 1,000 yard season and the loss of Kellen Winslow benefits the Browns offense keeping the defense fresh and a lot more effective under Rob Ryan.
The added depth in the offensive line is the strength of the team and keeps them in the division and playoff race all season long.
Week 3 at Baltimore
I think the Browns can win the first two games of the season, if that happens they will be 2-0 going into there first division game and it being on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns haven’t been to successful on the road in recent memory but could be the shock of the NFL starting 3-0.
Week 6 at Pittsburgh
The Browns haven’t been able to beat the Steelers since 2003, and the fans are past restless about that. The Steelers had Romeo Crennels number but Eric Mangini has beaten the Steelers in the past and if he could do that in Pittsburgh Week 6, the confidence can take this team to places we haven’t seen since the 80’s.
Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7
The Steelers are going to start out of the gate slow. I think they will beat the Titans in Week 1 but struggle in the months of September and October and with their experience will help them get back on track in November and December and right the ship.
I also predict a major Injury to this team. QB Ben Roethlisburger is a very tough quarterback, but took a beating last year and am interested to see how is body recovers. Hines Ward is aging by the second and could see him going down this season due to a major injury.
Key Games Week 4 San Diego
Pittsburgh has been so successful on Prime Time at Home. Could LT and Shawn Merriman come into Pittsburgh and get revenge for their playoff defeat last season? The City of Pittsburgh would be shocked if San Diego comes in and shows weakness in the 09 Steelers and expose there defense.
Week 12 at Baltimore
The Ravens requested not to play the Steelers on primetime in Pittsburgh in the 09 season. I could see the Steelers going into Baltimore and shalack them again on primetime but this time in Baltimore. Pittsburgh is going to use that as motivation in this rivalry. This is going to be the game that puts the Ravens away in division and helps the Steelers right the ship in 09.
Baltimore Ravens 7-9
The Ravens are going to feel the effects of losing Rex Ryan. The defense is getting old and lost a key part in LB Bart Scott. Joe Flacco is going to find out being an NFL quarterback isn’t as easy as it was in the 08 season. The Ravens faithful are going to be calling for Troy Smith who is going to be one of the few bright spots in the 09 season for the Ravens.
Week 5 vs Bengals
The Ravens second divisional game at home is the Bengals. They can’t possibly have a shot at the division if losing to the Browns and Bengals at home in there first two divisional games. The Ravens need to find a way to stop Palmer and company if they want a shot in this game.
Week 16 at Steelers
After requesting to not playing at night in Pittsburgh the Ravens return to Heinz field for the first time since the AFC Championship game with there season over by now. Can show good signs for the 2010 campaign with a win in Pittsburgh and confidence they can win in that ugly Stadium.
2009 AFC North First Team:
Chad Ocho Cinco and Braylon Edwards