The AFC North has for some time been about the two tough teams to play, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Now that is changing with the rising Cleveland Browns with seasoned talent on board. To play the conference and in-conference play will be that much harder now. The in-conference losses could hurt if these three split wins. Harder for the 2nd place team to earn a wildcard spot.
The favorites are the Steelers in name alone and same for the Ravens. The best team and favorites really are the Browns. They are the best and it's tough for people to go with them because of history. But give them credit for last year, they turned the corner. They will win the North with solid play on both sides of the ball this year. It's not a rookie team trying to win, they have vets who know how to win and want to win. Mayfield is amazingly comfortable already playing the game of football. His sideline antics and passionate play is just fun to watch. It's his element, his world, his playground and it shows. The Browns' will win and win a lot.
So who comes up next? Does it matter? Ravens with new QB and OC Coach with new system could and most likely will be all over the place. Defenses will be closing the RPO gap quicker this year with schemes to disguise what they are doing. So polar opposites between Ravens and Steelers offenses and the race to see which one works. My money is on the Steelers to end up above the Ravens this year. It could be a real circus with the Ravens over creating and the Steelers continuing to be under creating their respective offenses. Week 5 and week 17 are going to be fun to watch. Their old games of just gut punch after gut punch to each other is gone. One will still do it and the other...who knows. To me, week 17 is very intriguing to see who is left standing. I have my concerns with the Ravens.
Don't forget about the Cincinnati Bengals. Great QB play, amazing run game, and consistent defense. No, wait, that was someone else. I expect some inconsistent play under the new coach but there may be some flashes of excitement because of him. They can't become even less exciting, can they?
The Steelers are the only constant from last year. The other three have new wrinkles and may surprise a few and may fail and struggle. My call is Browns, Steelers, Ravens, Bengals. I'm out!