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AFC North Predictions For The 2017-18 Season

Karis Mardirossian

Matthew Mardirossian, Staff Writer

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Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

  • After a disappointing loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, the Steelers look to reach the Super Bowl once more and capture their 7th Lombardi Trophy. In addition to getting back most of their key players from last year, the Steelers will also be getting back Martavis Bryant, who will add a new explosiveness to their already powerful offense. Additionally, it is almost certain that the Steelers will place the franchise tag on the best running back in the league, Le’Veon Bell. In the unlikely scenario that Roethlisberger doesn’t return, the Steelers will need to find a new starting quarterback before the season. However, Roethlisberger will likely return for a couple more seasons, which will motivate the team to get him one more Lombardi Trophy. With an easier schedule than last year and a more explosive offense, the Steelers will likely improve upon their record from last season and immediately assert themselves as a top contender for the Super Bowl. Currently, the biggest obstacle standing in the Steelers way is the New England Patriots. Last year, when the Steelers lost to the Patriots during the season, they were without Ben Roethlisberger due to an injury. To make matters worse, Le’Veon Bell went down with an injury a few minutes into the AFC Championship against the Patriots. Next season, expect the Steelers to be much more competitive with the Patriots with a healthier team. (Continued from paper edition)

Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

  • Last season the Ravens improved from a 5-11 record to an 8-8 record. Surprisingly, a usually competitive Ravens team has not been competitive the past two years. However, that will most likely change this upcoming season, as the Ravens will once again become a dominant force in the AFC. No matter what team you are, the Ravens always put up a tough fight. This is mostly due to their hard-hitting defense and their formidable offense. However, the Ravens lost many games last year due to avoidable interceptions and mistakes on offense. These mistakes were the main thing that kept them out of the playoffs last season. If the Ravens can minimize these errors, they will likely clinch a playoff spot and assert themselves as one of the toughest teams to play against in the AFC. After suffering injuries to star players such as Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs two seasons ago, the Ravens went into a rebuilding phase last season. Expect the Ravens to continue to improve this season and once again become contenders in the AFC.  

Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)

  • Two seasons ago in the AFC Wild-Card Game, the world witnessed the self destruction of the Cincinnati Bengals as they received two fifteen yard penalties with seconds left that ended up costing them the game. After this devastating loss, the Bengals were not able to recover, as both their defense and offense looked much weaker this year. This was, in part, due to the fact that they lost key receivers like Mohamed Sanu. However, the penalties continued to haunt the Bengals this year, which was shown once again during a game against the Steelers. In a game that could have potentially knocked the Steelers out of the playoff picture, the Bengals were eager to exact revenge on their fiercest rivals. The Bengals started off hot, taking an early lead, but in the second half they received multiple unnecessary roughness penalties which resulted in the Steelers scoring 15 points to cap off a 24-20 win. In order to succeed this season, the Bengals must control their emotions and play a style that is physical, yet controlled. On top of this, the Bengals will still be lacking many offensive weapons next season. It is hard to say how the Bengals will fare before the draft happens, but right now expect them to fare the same as they did last season.

Cleveland Browns (4-12)

  • For the past few years years the Browns have struggled to succeed, as their past few seasons have been losing seasons. However, much of this trouble stems from their lack of a franchise quarterback that has the ability to take the team to the playoffs. The Browns, like the Bengals, are tough to predict before the draft because much of their success depends on who they draft. Currently, the Browns are in need of a quarterback, as RGIII is not seen as a franchise quarterback there. Despite the uncertainty in Cleveland, it is unlikely that they will do worse than last year, as it seems like they will be on an upward trajectory with players like Terrell Pryor to compliment their new quarterback on offense. Towards the end of last season, the Browns looked like they were going to have a winless season. But they surprised many after they upset the Chargers to pick up their first win of the season. Although this meaning does not have much significance on paper, the team did show some potential in this matchup, and it was a psychological booster, as now they know they have the ability to pull off wins. Next season expect the Browns to continue to rebuild and improve with a new quarterback.
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