NFL

2020 NFL Regular Season Prediction Series: AFC North

Our next chapter of Pro Sports Extra’s 2020 NFL Regular Season Prediction Series takes us to the rough and tough AFC North.

This division has seen some mighty improvements from all four teams, and it will look very different in this upcoming season.

But any given Sunday this year, who knows who could win the division here.

Baltimore Ravens

Last season, the Baltimore Ravens were among one of the heavy favorites to win the Super Bowl. But they were disappointingly bounced in the Divisional Round by the Tennessee Titans at home.

Even with the NFL MVP in quarterback Lamar Jackson at the helm, the Ravens look to dig deeper into the playoffs rather than just one-and-done. Their offense remains in tact, but they’ll lose a key offensive lineman after Marshall Yanda announced his retirement in the offseason.

The team returns a majority of their starters from both sides from last year, but they bolstered their defense franchise tagging edge rusher Matthew Judon and drafting linebacker Patrick Queen out of LSU.

The Ravens are seeking to go for a Lombardi Trophy in their future, but if somehow some way they need to get over that playoff hump, this might be the season to do it. Time is ticking, it’s better to go for a Super Bowl now rather than later.

Cleveland Browns

2019 appeared to be a season in which the Cleveland Browns can take the next step. Well, what happened was they started out of the gate quick, but they took two steps backwards.

Along with firing head coach Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland brought in yet another regime change. The team hired Andrew Berry as general manager and brought in Kevin Stefanski as their new head coach.

Their offense appears to be still be good on paper with Baker Mayfield at quarterback and Nick Chubb at running back, but the main issue is with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., since he told other teams to ‘come get me’ in games.

Hopefully the mess that was in Cleveland is resolved, but the new regime can change things in an instant if things go wrong. And with the Haslems’ in charge in ownership, it may change (again) in another year or two. Let’s pray that this is not the case.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Joe Burrow Bengals era is officially beginning in Cincinnati.

Even with their new leader and signal-caller, the Bengals are still in a rebuild. So it will look there will be taking baby steps moving forward.

Most of the steps taken were towards their defense, such as signing run-stuffing defensive tackle D.J. Reader and defensive backs Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes.

Cincy also improved somewhat on the offense by signing guard Xavier S’ua-Filo and bringing back wideout A.J. Green, who also was on the franchise tag.

Fans likely won’t expect much from the Bengals this year, but there will be a hope if Burrow lives up to the hype that was brought with him from his LSU days.

Pittsburgh Steelers

With the offensive struggles they had last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers also had a rebirth of the defense they were always known for.

This time, they were led by multiple playmakers such as edge rusher T.J. Watt, second-year linebacker Devin Bush, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (whom they traded for in midseason).

The offense should rebound to their original form with Ben Roethlisberger returning at quarterback, but the burning question is, can they stick together again?

They add a couple weapons by signing tight end Eric Ebron and drafting Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool to compliment running back James Connor and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and that will make them competitive on paper.

But they have to battle Baltimore and maybe Cleveland for the top spot in the North, so it is very possible to see a three team race for the division crown. Let’s see if everyone sticks to one another.

2020 AFC North Division Prediction:

  • 1) Baltimore Ravens (11-5)**
  • 2) Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)*
  • 3) Cleveland Browns (7-9)
  • 4) Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)

Like I mentioned before, this could end up being a great three-team race for the division, but I predict the Ravens clinching the top spot once again. The Steelers will also get a wild card spot with having Big Ben back at QB and having their team overall back into form.

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