There were tons of additions and subtractions to NFL teams across the league this offseason. Many of these moves will significantly impact the divisional standings throughout the year. In this series, we’ll take a look at each division, and where each team in it will end the season.
Check out the Division Predictions of the other NFL divisions:
Cleveland Browns – Predicted Record: 3-13
You have to feel for Cleveland fans. Any of them reading this probably hate me right now – I mean, this is a team that won seven games last year. You know a franchise is in rough shape, though, when 7-9 feels like overachieving. They still don’t have a Quarterback to speak of, and with the Gordon-Bowe swap at the #1 receiver slot, it feels like they are moving backwards across the board in terms of skill position talent. With a few changes up front as well as on the defensive side of the ball that really could go either way, this team could end up seeing both it’s strengths and weaknesses from last year getting worse.
The Two in the Middle
Cincinnati Bengals – Predicted Record: 9-7
I don’t think the Bengals – who went 10-5-1 last year – are going to get any worse. I just think the teams around them – the Steelers in particular – are getting better. Cincinnati is going to be competitive – they still have a great duo in the backfield, an elite WR, and a top-ten defense, at least on paper. But it is hard to see any area in which they have gotten noticeably better since last year, so the question becomes whether Andy Dalton is still Andy Dalton, or if he can take a step forward and be the improvement this team needs.
Baltimore Ravens – Predicted Record: 11-5
The Ravens lost Torrey Smith. They lost Hiloti Ngata, and they re-signed Ed Reed just so he could retire. But they still have Suggs, and Canty, and Dumervil – their defense is going to be just fine. And on offense, they still have Joe Flacco and Forsett, who was more than just efficient last year. As for adding pieces, they did bring in Marc Trestman to run the offense, and no matter what he did as a head coach, he has a proven track record of making the most out of his offensive weapons. Forsett could actually be a threat to improve on his 44 catches from last year, and adding a safe underneath route to Flacco’s arsenal will only help draw in defenses and create openings for him to unleash those lethal deep balls.
The Top Dog
Pittsburgh Steelers – Predicted Record: 12-4
The Steelers resumed their rightful place on top of the division (just ask any Steelers fan – they’ll tell you) last year, and I don’t think they are giving it up. Their offense is wide-open, drawing on the strengths of Ben Roethlisberger – a strong, accurate arm and an ability to extend plays. Wide receivers like Antonio Brown (and, hopefully, Martavis Bryant), who just seem to be constantly getting open fit that scheme perfectly – not to mention a back like Le’Veon Bell, who can take a broken play and take it the distance. They obviously want him back as soon as possible, but in the first three weeks they draw a Patriots team (very likely) without Tom Brady, then the 49ers and Rams – all winnable games. In fact, the deterioration of at least half of the NFC West is a boon to both the Steelers and the Ravens this year – last year or the year before, drawing the NFC West might have made this look like a much more difficult schedule on paper.