The defending AFC Champions return a seasoned team that is only made better with the return of some injured key players from a year ago. With basically the same roster, the Steelers are well equipped to start the season strong, despite the lockout. The preseason surprise for this team has been the play of second year receiver Antonio Brown. Brown has been making defenders look silly with his speed and route running. In Saturday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, Brown put up 137 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 4 receptions. That production has been the product of a Pittsburgh offense that is humming at mid-season form.
Predicted Finish: 12-4
Always fighting the Steelers for the division crown, the Ravens should be right up there again this year. However, unlike the Steelers, the Ravens have undergone some radical changes on the offense. Gone are two of Joe Flacco's favorite targets, Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, and to replace them the Ravens traded for the Bills Lee Evans. Also gone is long time Raven RB Willis McGahee, replaced by former Saints and Dolphins stud Ricky Williams. The Ravens have upgraded in talent but with the shortened offseason, they may not see any real flow till around mid-season. Their defense will carry them till them but not enough to hang with Pittsburgh.
Predicted Finish: 10-6
There is a lot of upside to this Cleveland team. They have a talented offense that includes a second year quarterback that shows flashes of brilliance, a hard running back that can dominate, and an offensive line that is one of the toughest in the league. What they don't have is the problem and that is mainly experience. With a new coach and new system, it's going to take time for these Browns to acclimate to it and while the team is heading in the right direction and will win some games, they are still about 2 years from contending for the division.
Predicted Finish: 7-9
The Bengals that you will see this year is a far cry from even the rough teams from recent years. They don't have Carson Palmer under center any longer after he took an early retirement and the other face of this franchise, Chad Ochocinco, has bolted to New England to be with Tom Brady. That leaves rookies Andy Dalton (QB) and A.J. Green (WR) to pick up the slack. The simple answer to whether they can do it is no. With a lack of a real offseason, they and the Bengals are in no position to win right now and will probably boast some one of the worst records in the NFL this season.
Predicted Finish: 3-13