2015 NFL Football Betting – AFC North Preview
The NFL season is two months away. The AFC North, the best and most balanced division in the AFC last season, might suffer in one specific respect, but it’s still probably going to be better than every other AFC division this year.
AFC South Preview
This is a division which was fiercely contested last season. Even though the Cleveland Browns finished last, they were in the hunt for a playoff spot in November and made some definite improvements. Cleveland, as everyone knows, just needs the quarterback position to become a source of stability and reliable production. Johnny Manziel, though, does not give the impression of a player who is ready to take that next step and make the Browns a playoff-level team. Cleveland will once again be competitive because of its defense, but the Browns will probably stay in the fourth spot near the 8-8 mark.
The other three teams in the division made the playoffs last season, although only one of them – Baltimore – reached the second round. The Ravens were not that impressive during the season. They won a lot of low-scoring games thanks to their defense. The passing game with Joe Flacco sputtered, and Baltimore didn’t develop its receiving corps. The passing game came alive in the divisional playoff round against the New England Patriots – it was the best passing performance of the whole season – but the secondary couldn’t hold up against Tom Brady’s aerial attack, and the Ravens were sent home. They scraped their way into the playoffs, but then played their best when in the playoffs. Can they do that again this year? They might have to.
It’s going to be tough for Baltimore because Pittsburgh won the division last year and has Ben Roethlisberger – renewed and confident – coming off one of his best seasons in years. The Steelers endured many struggles in recent seasons, but 2014 restored the franchise to its rightful place, the place it expects to be: first place. The Steelers’ passing game hummed, with Antonio Brown becoming the kind of playmaker the Ravens lack on the edges. Brown stretches the field so that tight end Heath Miller can work in the intermediate range of the field. The Steelers have a better offense than Baltimore, but their chief concern this year is that longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau left the team. Replacing LeBeau is a big question mark that hangs over the rest of the organization this season. Pittsburgh is good enough to make the playoffs, but the Steelers might not be consistent enough to get a first-round playoff bye.
The Cincinnati Bengals also made the playoffs last season, but they again failed to win a game in the postseason. They haven’t done so in nearly 25 years, and quarterback Andy Dalton is the reason why. Dalton just can’t get the Bengals over the hump. He is surrounded by a ton of talent, beginning with superstar receiver A.J. Green and continuing with Giovani Bernard in the backfield, but he just doesn’t make good decisions with the constancy the Bengals need from him.
Underlying all this is a point of concern for the division as a whole: Last year, the AFC North played the NFC South, a division in which no team even reached .500. This year, the AFC North plays the much tougher NFC West out of conference. The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are going to be very tough. The AFC North team which does the best against the NFC West, provided it can hold its own in the division, will be the winner. Baltimore, which gets Seattle at home, has the advantage over Pittsburgh, which must go to Seattle. Take the Ravens when it’s all said and done.