We’re back for round 2!
If you didn’t know, I started a little series of some sort this past Thursday, where I preview every division leading up to the start of training camp. I’ve already addressed the NFC East, which you should seriously take a look at if you’re a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys.
Today, I’ll be diving into the AFC North, which had a massive shot of intrigue injected into it due to some major off-season moves. You can also see the odds on who is the favorite to make the Super Bowl out of the AFC North on online sports betting uk.
Without further ado, let’s jump into it.
Best Offense: Baltimore Ravens
Come on, you knew this was coming.
I don’t think anyone expected the Ravens’s offense to explode like it did in 2019. The offense wasn’t centered around a flashy, modern passing offense you see around the game in general these days. Rather, it took its exciting franchise quarterback with something to prove so early on in his career, a bruising veteran back with some added ability to the catch the ball out of the backfield, and an offensive line that loves to dominate in the trenches.
The results of this obvious run heavy offense, with a modern touch, were absolutely incredible.
Actually, incredible isn’t even the word to describe the Baltimore Ravens’s offense last season. To start off, this offense took the run heavy approach to the absolute extreme. Not only did they run the ball more than anyone else in the league, the success that transpired from the run heavy approach was staggering.
As you can see, the Ravens had the top rushing offense in the league by far. The total amount of attempts were tops in the league, and the crazy 206 RYPG is to put it in short, extremely abnormal. From 2010-2018, the 2019 Ravens were the only team that rushed for over 180 YPG as a team, no other team reached 170 RYPG, except for the 2014 Seattle Seahawks, who rushed for 172 YPG as a team.
I haven’t even mentioned how the team broke the NFL record for the most total rushing yards in a season by a single team, and how their 2019 league MVP set a new record for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback by week FIFTEEN.
Ah, I almost forgot this offense’s tendency to rip teams apart with play action as well.
If you’re expecting this offense to slow down by any means, I’ll damper those expectations right here and now. Not only do they return most of their starters from last season, they added more explosion and speed via the 2020 NFL Draft in the way of Devin Duvernay and J.K. Dobbins.
Some words of advice to all you football enthusiasts out there, make sure your seat belt is strapped on, because this offense, with the added speed and explosion, is set to look even more threatening this upcoming season.
Best Defense: Pittsburgh Steelers
The 2019 Steelers were in serious danger of watching their season flush down the toilet after Ben Roethlisberger’s severe elbow injury in week 2 of the 2019 season. But the team found their Peter Parker in the way of their defense, and turned their season around in a major way as the year went along.
Get it, Steelers=Mary Jane and their defense=Peter Parker….?
I’ll show myself out.
But seriously, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree destroyed opposing defenses off the EDGE, accounting for nearly half of the team’s entire sack total in 2019. Cam Heyward continued to dominate, and he’s shown zero signs of slowing down. Side note here before we continue, I seriously wonder how much longer the league will continue to underrate Heyward, he’s the poster boy for consistency. It’s kind of sad when you think about it, you watch the guy continually whoop the butts of almost every single offensive lineman that dares to put their hands on him, and the league STILL won’t give the guy his deserved props.
Now that my rambling is out of the way, let’s continue.
When you take a look at where the Steelers’s defense ranked in terms of DVOA(Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, explanation here), I believe you can understand why I’m such a big supporter of this defense.
DVOA tells you what you should already know, this defense is a defense that didn’t give in to anyone last season.
Ah, I also can’t forget about the promise Devin Bush brings in the middle of the defense, and the secondary, which flew under the radar for most of the year outside of Minkah Fitzpatrick.
I personally want to be able to watch this defense a lot more going forward. I don’t usually lock my eyes on a specific defense to watch often, so take that how you want to. Either way, this defense is primed to bring back their nastiness they displayed in 2019, so good luck to the rest of the AFC North.
P.S.- Watch and appreciate Cam Heyward.
Impact Rookie: Joe Burrow
If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for Joe Burrow. Before he put up a record 2019 campaign at LSU, I had never seen an offense that was expected to put up 40 points each time they ran out on to the field, especially in the powerhouse known as the SEC.
Now in Cincinnati, Burrow will be tasked with bringing Bengals fans something to smile about. It’s been a while since everyone around the league has been intrigued about the Bengals. I mean, the franchise hasn’t exactly been an example of success, so having some sort of excitement surrounding the team is a refreshing sight to see.
Obviously, this team isn’t expected to be competing for something as crazy as a playoff spot in 2020, but the amount of young talent this team has on offense, gives off a familiar feeling that sets my attention towards the NBA. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but I’m sure a decent amount of NBA fans have their favorite team, then a team they’re really interested in alongside their favorite squad. That sort of team is known as a fan’s “League Pass” team, where they spend 120 bucks just to watch that single team on League Pass. It isn’t the wisest investment, but fans still do it for some strange reason.
Anywho, you get where I’m going with this right? The 2020 Bengals are like my personal League Pass team, that’s how excited I’am for them now, and the years ahead.
Jeez, I seriously hope I didn’t give anyone the bright idea to spend $120 a year just to watch a single team outside of their market.
If I did, I’m truly sorry.
Biggest Disappointment: Pittsburgh Steelers
Right now, the strength of this football team is their defense, and within that lies a problem. It’s great to have a defense to depend on, but depending on that same defense to sustain elite play collectively year to year, just isn’t the right way to go about these sorts of things.
It’d be a different story if the offense was able to keep up and take as much pressure off the defense as they can, but even with the return of Ben Roethlisberger, I’m not confident in the offense’s ability to consistently play at a high level and keep their defense off the field. Roethlisberger is quickly nearing his 40s, he’s essentially coming off Tommy John surgery, and while his supporting cast might have talent, it’s still full of question marks and a bunch of annoying “what ifs”.
Plus, even before Roethlisberger’s injury and eventual surgery, he didn’t look that good on the field anyways.
Now of course, the Steelers’s defense isn’t too different from the nasty squad that kept the team afloat in the AFC playoff race, but it’s foolish to expect the same play from last season without some of the nagging variables somehow impacting the play of this defense.
Again, I love this Steelers defense, but I simply don’t believe in sustaining elite play year to year on the defensive side of the ball. There has to be some sort of upgraded means of success from the offense to keep this sort of model going, and I simply don’t believe this offense is up to the task.
Sleeper Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Hehe, you should know me by now.
I love the dang Bengals now, and you can thank Joe Burrow for that. Burrow is stepping into a situation where he has a good shot at producing a good amount early on. A.J. Green is somehow still in Cincinnati, Tyler Boyd is fun, Tee Higgins turned a lot of heads at Clemson, and a lot of teams would love to have Joe Mixon starting in their backfield.
Now the offensive line is still kind of poor, and the defense is still kind of meh, but the additions they made on that side of the ball are promising.
I don’t believe this team will secure playoff spot, but through the ups and downs, I think this team will provide some fun entertainment during a season of abnormality.
How Many Teams Make The Playoffs: 2
The Ravens are an obvious shoe in to repeat as AFC North champions, but who do I have joining them in the AFC playoff field?
None other than the……Cleveland Browns!
Yes, I have Cleveland’s worst sports catastrophe snapping their atrocious 17 year playoff drought, and I believe Kevin Stefanski will be the biggest reason why. Stefanski’s run first offense should bring Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to the forefront of this offense, and give Baker Mayfield an easier time while running a crap ton of play action.
Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, and others should be seeing a decent amount of downfield shots if the run game starts imposing its will. The offensive line struggled in pass protection last season, but Stefanski’s offense should aid in masking those shortcomings in pass protection. It’s like they say, there’s no better way to mask an offensive line’s deficiencies in pass protection like making them push big men around in the trenches, it gets them in a groove.
The Steelers are a popular pick here, but I’m not that confident in Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to play at a high level with a supporting cast full of question marks, and as I said earlier, I’m not a big believer in defenses sustaining elite play year after year, it just doesn’t happen that often.
Give me the Browns as a playoff team over the Steelers.
Division Winner: Ravens