By: Jason Gandhi
Three of the four teams in this division have maintained success for the past 3-4 years. The Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the best offenses in the league when healthy took a step back due to injuries to their star players but are now looking to get to the Super Bowl once again. The Baltimore Ravens, the injury bug plagued this team as well and caused them to have an off year, but are revamped and ready to go for 2016. The Cincinnati Bengals, went 12-4 the past season until Andy Dalton went down and the Bengals were forced to start AJ Mccarron in the playoffs against the Steelers. And finally the lowly Cleveland Browns, moving on from the Johnny Manziel fiasco with the one and only Robert Griffin III trying to make him the face of the franchise. The first three could realistically be playing when playoff time. For the Browns, well they are the Browns.
Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Le’veon Bell. It is hard to find another offense that can keep up with the Steelers in the AFC. The only concern are the injuries and suspensions. Ben Roethlisberger missed four games due to injury, Antonio Brown missed the last playoff game due to injury, and Le’veon Bell missed two games for suspension and then tore his ACL having him play in only six games this past year. The 2016 season will be crucial for the Steelers as Bell becomes a free agent this next off-season. All in all, if the Steelers stay healthy throughout the year I fully expect them to go to at least the AFC Championship.
Steve Smith Sr. announced before the 2015 season that after the season he would be calling it quits. When he went down with an ACL injury in week 8, he decided he could not end his prolific career like that. The decision gives the Ravens a solid veteran weapon to help mentor young guys such as Kamar Aiken and Breshad Perriman. Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs, two other veteran leaders, also went down with injuries in 2015 and that is what lead to the underwhelming 5-11 record. If Flacco, Smith and Suggs stay healthy, I could see this team be in the playoff hunt all year. I see them going right around 8-8 or 9-7 and just fall short of the playoffs.
Last year was going to be the year. Andy Dalton would FINALLY get over the hump and win a playoff game. Until… Mr. Dalton goes down in week 14 when MAKING a tackle. No not breaking but making. So now the Bengals move onto the 2016 season, without Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and others. If the Bengals want to have a season like the previous, they will need some big plays out of #2 and #3 receivers Brandon Lafell and Tyler Boyd. They obviously will need to do that one thing that has held them back year after year. Oh yeah that’s right… Win a playoff game.
Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Spergon Wynn, Doug Pederson, Kelly Holcomb, Luke McCown, Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Colt McCoy, Thad Lewis, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Austin Davis and now Robert Griffin III. Enough said.