1st Place: Pittsburgh Steelers
Last year was just a bad year for the Steelers.Ben Roethlisberger had that motorcycle accident,then the emergency appendectomy,and then when he was getting back on track he ended up with a concussion.Bill Cowher lost his fire and didn't really seem to care if we won or lost,his mind was in North Carolina.Most of the veterans became complacent.They knew thier job was secure because Cowher rarley replaces a veteran for reasons other than injury.We drafted a playmaking reciever in Santonio Holmes,but he was rarley used until the end of the season.
Now Mike Tomlin has stepped in as the Head Coach since Cowher resigned.That complacent feeling the vets had is now gone,they all know they have to work hard and play well to keep thier jobs.Tomlin calls guys out for lazy play,bad play,stupid mistakes,and penalties with The Loaf List and The News,which is presented in daily meetings.Ben will be healthy this year,fully recovered from his accident,apendectomy,and concussion.Holmes will be a starter,so we will be seeing big plays out of him all year,and not just the end of it.
Pittsburgh will bounce back and dominate not only the division,but the entire league.Everybody better watch out,the Steelers are once again under the radar and being snubbed by eveyrone...and that's when they perform the best.
2nd Place: Baltimore Ravens
They return basicly the same team as last year.They lost linebacker Adalius Thomas in free agency,but thier defense won't drop off much if at all because he's gone.However,it seems after a good year,the Ravens defense always has injuries that cause them to faulter.They also lost RB Jamal Lewis in free agency to division rival Cleveland.
They aquired RB Willis McGahee to replace Lewis.McGahee,of Miami U fame,is much younger than Lewis.However,he doesn't have the resume Lewis does.McGahee has never had a 1,000 yard season or scored more than 6 TD's in a season while playing for Buffalo.If there were complaints about the o-line being unable to open up holes for Lewis,a back that is capable of opening some of his own holes,then how are they gonna open holes for the much smaller McGahee?
Steve McNair will have had a season and an entire offseason under Baltimore's offensive system,so that should make him better than he was last year.But that still doesn't help his age and the fact that he is injury prone.All they have behind McNair is first-round bust Kyle Boller and rookie Troy Smith.If McNair goes down for a significant amount of time,this offense is screwed.
3rd Place: Cinncinati Bengals
This team has a dynamic offense with an awful defense.
It doesn't help that playmaker Chris Henry has been suspended for the first half of the season.Marvin Lewis seems to not want to discipline his players,he isntead makes excuses for why they break the law.That's a far cry from what thier QB Carson Palmer has been preaching: accountability.This team has had about 10 arrests in 13 or so months,that has to be distracting this team.
The offense is a high-powered one that can score 30 any night...but that 30 points does you no good if the defense lets the other team score 35.And that has been the story of the Bengals these last few years.
Thier defense has lost some of thier promising stars with the potential career-ending injury to DE David Pollack and the suspension of LB Odell Thurman,who may or may not be on the team this season.Jonathan Joseph is a promising first-round CB as long as he stays off of the reefer.They drafted another CB in the first round this season in Leon Hall,but he isn't expected to start the season as a starter.So that would leave Deltha O'Niel as the other CB.O'Neil can intercept a lame-duck pass as great as Deon Sanders...but he can't cover a WR to save his job (which is why I said Hall won't be a starter in the BEGINING of the season).
4th Place: Cleveland Browns
The offensive line is improved.They had one hell of a draft.They finally have a RB with a history of success.Unfortunatly for the Browns,that won't help them at all this season.
That improved offensive line won't be a finely gelled unit until at least 5 games into the season.So until this o-line is gelled,there will be missed comminication which leads to missed blocks.Charlie Frye will be on his back a lot in the begining of this year.
The defense's best unit is the linebackers.Kamerion Wimbley is one of the better OLB's in the league,but nobody knows his name.He deserved the Defensive Rookie of the Year award last year,but was snubbed because he played for hapless Cleveland.Willie McGinnest brings a veteran leadership to the linebackers,but his skills are begining to decline.
The defensive backfield is in shambles.Gary Baxter tore the patellar tendon in each knee on one play last season,nobody has ever come back from that.Leigh Bodden is the best corner on the team right now,but can never seem to stay healthy for the entire season.The lost saftey Brian Russel in free agency,he was a defensive captain,he made all the calls on the field for the secondary.Now someone new has to take on that responsibility.