Throughout the month of August we here at the Sports Script are going to answer the 5 key questions regarding each division in the NFL. We have gotten together 3 of the Sports Script writers Ricky Valero, Matt Wincherauk & Matt bell to answer the questions. These will lead up to the ultimate reveal of everyone’s prediction for the NFL season. Today we take a look at the AFC North.
1. Which player needs to step up the most this year?
Ricky: Andy Dalton. The Red Rifle has tons of talent around him and this year he needs to prove he is among the top QBs in football.
Matt Bell: Ray Rice will be the guy I’m expecting to have to step up the most for the Ravens. The Ravens have lost several players from last year’s Super Bowl team and if the offense is going to put up points this year Rice has to be a factor. He’s go to stop fumbling the ball as the defense is going to be rebuilding and won’t be able to bail Rice out on these fumbles.
Matty W.: Andy Dalton: This was between Dalton and Joe Flacco for me, but I’ll lay off Flacco because of that Super Bowl for now. But on Dalton, the Bengals have a very very good team, especially with a near élite caliber defense. So the rest is on Dalton to lead an explosive offense with the likes of AJ Green. Time to win a playoff game Mr. Dalton
2. Which coach has the most pressure to win this year?
Ricky: Marvin Lewis. 10 years he has been coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and he has 0 playoff wins to show for it. It’s time for him to change that or look for another job.
Bell: Marvin Lewis is 79 – 80 in his time as head coach of the Bengals and led them to a playoff game last year. The Bengals need to get back to the playoffs in what I would consider one of the weaker years for this division and if Lewis doesn’t do that than it might be time for that organization to look in a different direct. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in the 10 years he’s been there and if that doesn’t change this year with recent success I believe the Bengals find someone else next year.
Matty W.: Mike Tomlin: This may seem odd because Tomlin has won a Super Bowl and been to another in his time in Pittsburgh, but his team is on the verge of falling apart. You have to make the playoffs in Steel Town and another miss might start some rumblings of Tomlin not being as good as we thought he was.
3. Who is the Sleeper player to watch in the division?
Ricky: Emmanuel Sanders. I think he is going to play a key role in the Steelers offense in 2013. He could be a real dark horse in helping the Steelers make a playoff run.
Bell: Giovani Bernard is going to be a beast at running back and I’m predicting that to begin as soon as this year. The Bengals spend a second round pick on Bernard and as soon as BJGE becomes ineffective or begins fumbling this year then look for Bernard to take the lead role and run with it. The worst thing I’ve heard on this guy is his size and we know players overcome that all the time.
Matty W.: Bernard Pierce: It may seem odd with the incumbent Ray Rice in the Baltimore backfield, but Pierce is quietly creeping up on Rice as his replacement. Pierce is a more durable, younger and far cheaper replacement, so I would expect to see Pierce steal carries, and look great.
4. Which player means the most to their team’s success this year?
Ricky: Ben Roethlisberger. The team’s record without him is not very good. If the Steelers are going to make the run I think they are he needs to be healthy. Without him they are easily one of the bottom feeders in football.
Bell: Ben Roethlisberger is going to be without his favorite wide receiver in Mike Wallace who left during free agency this year and the running back job is going to fall in the hands of a rookie. Ben has to the quarterback he has been in the past and not make mistakes. The team will lean on him to make plays and lead them to the playoffs this year if they are going to make it there.
Matty W.: Joe Flacco: If I’ve learned anything from Raven’s fans over the offseason, it’s that Joe Flacco is finally elite. So that means he needs to be elite for the entire season and not just a couple games. With key losses of Boldin, Reed, Lewis and Ellerbe, Joe’s going to have to be as great as he’s been made out to be this offseason.
5. How will the division play out?
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) – Steelers will edge the Ravens to win this division as Big Ben stays healthy for 16 games.
2. Ravens (11-5)
3. Bengals (8-8)
4. Browns (6-10)
1. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4 – The rookie RB steps up big time to be the players they need and the rook LB Jarvis Jones wreaks havoc to allow the Steelers to reclaim their place atop the AFC North.
2. Bengals (9-7)
3. Ravens (8-8)
4. Browns (7-9)
1. Baltimore Ravens: This should be fairly tight division again, i think the Bengals make a run for the division crown, but I’m going to stick with the Super Bowl champion Ravens with a 10-6 record.
2. Bengals: 9-7
3. Steelers: 7-9
3. Browns: 4-12