Share this article

print logo

AFC North capsules by Jay Skurski

Cincinnati Bengals

New faces: S Danieal Manning, OT Marshall Newhouse, CB Darqueze Dennard, QB Jason Campbell.

Saying goodbye: DE Michael Johnson, LB James Harrison, OT Anthony Collins, C Kyle Cook.

Projected starting quarterback: Andy Dalton.

Dalton’s second-year stats: 16 starts, 329 of 528, 62.3 completion percentage, 3,669 yards, 6.9 yards per attempt, 27 TDs, 16 interceptions, 87.4 passer rating.

What they need to learn: The Bengals are replacing both of last year’s coordinators, Jay Gruden on offense (with Hue Jackson) and Mike Zimmer on defense (with Paul Guenther). While both are in-house promotions, how big of an adjustment will that be for the team?

Did you know? The Bengals made the playoffs for the third year in a row in 2013, but once again lost their opening game. Only six teams in the Super Bowl era have done that. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990.

They’ll finally get that playoff win if: Jackson, who holds players accountable, gets the best out of Dalton when it matters most. The Bengals’ roster is deep in a lot of places.

The playoff win remains elusive if: The veteran secondary, with three of four projected starters in their 30s, breaks down and gets Cincinnati into a shootout that Dalton can’t keep up in.

Baltimore Ravens

New faces: RB Justin Forsett, WR Steve Smith, TE Owen Daniels, C Jeremy Zuttah, S Darian Stewart.

Saying goodbye: OT Michael Oher, DT Arthur Jones, S James Ihedigbo, CB Corey Graham.

Projected starting quarterback: Joe Flacco.

Flacco’s second-year stats: 16 starts, 315 of 499, 63.1 completion percentage, 3,613 yards, 7.2 yards per attempt, 21 TDs, 12 interceptions., 88.9 passer rating.

What they need to learn: Do veteran additions Smith and Daniels have enough left to provide Flacco with the necessary support?

Did you know? Coach John Harbaugh and Flacco had made the playoffs in their first five seasons together before missing the postseason in 2013.

They’ll return to the playoffs if: New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s West Coast system gets Flacco back on track (he threw 22 interceptions last year).

They’ll be home in January again if: Nose guard Haloti Ngata wears down late in the season and/or pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil lose a step.

Pittsburgh Steelers

New faces: WR Lance Moore, RB LeGarrette Blount; S Mike Mitchell; LB Ryan Shazier.

Saying goodbye: WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Jerricho Cotchery, LB LaMarr Woodley, LB Larry Foote, S Ryan Clark.

Projected starting quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger’s second-year stats: 12 starts, 168 of 268, 62.7 completion percentage, 2,385 yards, 8.9 yards per attempt, 17 TDs, 9 interceptions, 98.6 passer rating.

What they need to learn: Has defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau lost his edge? The Steelers’ defense finished outside the top 10 in yards allowed for the first time in more than a decade in 2013.

Did you know? Roethlisberger took every offensive snap in 2013 – the first time that’s happened in his 10-year career.

They’ll end a two-year postseason drought if: New offensive line coach Mike Munchak makes as big an impact as the team hopes he will in terms of opening up holes for the run game and keeping the big hits off Roethlisberger.

They’ll need to continue to rebuild the defense if: They can’t drastically cut down on the number of big plays against. The Steelers allowed seven pass plays of 50-plus yards last season, most in the NFL.

Cleveland Browns

New faces: Head coach Mike Pettine, S Donte Whitner, LB Karlos Dansby, RB Ben Tate, WR Nate Burleson.

Saying goodbye: LB D’Qwell Jackson, QB Bradon Weeden, S T.J. Ward, G Shawn Lauvao, WR Greg Little, WR Josh Gordon (season suspension).

Projected starting quarterback: Brian Hoyer.

Hoyer’s second-year stats: Five appearances (zero starts), 7 of 15, 46.7 completion percentage, 122 yards, 8.1 yards per attempt, 1 TD, 1 interception, 69.3 passer rating.

What they need to learn: When Johnny Manziel will be ready to take over the starting quarterback job from Hoyer.

Did you know? Mike Pettine is the Browns’ fifth head coach in the past seven seasons.

They’ll challenge for a .500 record if: Pettine quickly establishes a needed culture change and the team gets off to a quick start. The Browns have lost their season opener 15 times in the past 16 years.

They’ll continue to be a train wreck if: Manziel continues to make side trips to Las Vegas at every opportunity and Whitner embarrasses himself both in coverage and on Twitter.

There are no comments - be the first to comment