AFC North 2006 preview and projections

AFC North Division:

1) Pittsburgh: The Steelers are still the cream of the AFC North, having won 31 of their last 38 games and made the playoffs 4 of the last 5 years, however, they should beware of complacency after finally get over it. the proverbial hump and winning HC Bill Cowher’s first Super Bowl. The Steelers must overcome not only the distractions that come naturally from winning an NFL championship, but also the distraction of starting the motorcycle accident that nearly ended the career of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roster wise, Pittsburgh should be fine, they lost WR Randal El, but he would have been third team anyway and they selected him to cover their special team comeback duties, loss to free agency SS Chris Hope it will likely hurt an already weak secondary. , unless, of course, former Redskin free agent Ryan Clark succeeds and Pittsburgh is once again able to produce a terrific passer run to protect that secondary. Projected record: 11-5

**Look to play AGAINST the Steelers in their season opener at home against Miami, Dolphin HC Nick Saban brought former Buffalo HC Mike Mularkey on board to run the offense this year and brought former Houston HC Dom Capers on board to run the defense this year, both Mularkey and Capers were offensive and defensive coordinators with Pittsburgh and they know Steeler’s schemes inside and out, look at the spread in this game because historically speaking Miami is a perfect 7-0 ATS when settles as puppies of 6 points or more.

2) Baltimore: The Ravens had a terrific draft and got a major QB upgrade with the signing of former Titan QB Steve McNair who takes over QB duties from Kyle Boller, McNair will reunite with WR Derrick Mason who was his favorite target while both were still on the Titans’ payroll. McNair has been plagued by injuries in recent years, but overall the guy is just 33 and looking healthy once again, the new surroundings could give him a much-needed boost. As inconsistent as quarterback Kyle Boller has been in recent seasons, he’s still the best backup quarterback in the division because he knows the offense and was the former starter. The Ravens suffered numerous injuries along both sides of the ball last year and that led to a very disappointing 6-10 season, signing McNair should give a now healthy Raven defense more rest, Raven’s six wins last year they were at home in Baltimore. and that’s good news when you consider that San Diego, Carolina and Atlanta are on this year’s visiting list. Projected record: 10-6

**Look to play IN the Ravens on November 5th when divisional rival Cincy comes to town, the Ravens were a banged up injured team last year and the Bengals took advantage of that fact to sweep the season series for the first time since 1996 which was The Ravens’ first season in the league, according to the old history book, Baltimore has covered 7 of their last 9 home games against these Kitty Kats.

3) Cincinnati: The Bengals won the AFC North last season with an 11-5 record, but there are signs they won’t reach that mark in 2006 to begin with, let’s not forget that quarterback Carson Palmer’s status is still up in the air. the air. Regarding his ability to return in time for the start of the regular season, many media pundits who predicted his return do not remember that in September he will only be 8 months after the devastating knee injury he suffered. in january. The take here is that Cincy should have held on to backup quarterback Jon Kitna as insurance rather than letting him go to Detroit, as the Bengals will be forced to use free agent Anthony Wright (who doesn’t know offense) if Palmer doesn’t. be ready or he should go down injured again. Then there’s the small matter of all the off-field distractions that have plagued the Bengal organization regarding numerous players getting in trouble with the law or the NFL, including the loss of starting linebacker Odell Thurman, who is suspended for the first four games of the regular season. In the big picture, Cincy made big strides last season, but they have too many problems and especially on the defensive side of the ball, where they finished shoddy 28th in overall defense. Projected record: 9-7

**Look to play AGAINST these Bengals when they visit Baltimore on November 5th, the Ravens were an injured and banged up team last year and the Bengals took advantage of that fact to sweep the season series for the first time since 1996 which was the first of the Ravens. season in the league, according to the old history book, Baltimore has covered 7 of their last 9 home games against these Kitty Kats.

4) Cleveland: These Brownies appear to be this year’s AFC “hot pick” from the media regarding a team that has the ability to come out of nowhere and surprise. In truth, I think Cleveland will be a much better team this year, but it won’t surpass last year’s six-win total. Sure they have WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow healthy after injury and yes, they did sign WR Joe Jurevicius and LB Willie McGinest to add veteran leadership on both sides of the ball, however the Brownies ruled out the veteran QB Trent Dilfer (to 49ers) and will start QB Charlie Frye. To back up Frye, the Browns brought in former 49er QB Ken Dorsey. The Brownies also brought in Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley and OG Bob Hallen to bolster a weak offensive line, and wouldn’t they know? On the first play of the first practice, Bentley hurt his knee and finished the year forcing the Browns to convert recently acquired OG Bob Hallen to center.

The Brownies finished last season 26th in total offense and will be hard-pressed to improve on that mark with an inexperienced, raw quarterback under center and a converted guard at center. Cleveland has a tough row to beat this year as far as having six games against tough divisional opponents on top of having to face Carolina and San Diego and Atlanta all on the road and hosting Kansas City and Tampa, as already mentioned, I think these Brownies will be a better team overall this year, but I just can’t see them improve on win totals from last year. Projected record: 6-10

**Look to play AGAINST these Brownies when they visit Carolina on October 8th, Cleveland will be playing the road for the 3rd time in a 4 week span and will also be playing jet lag just playing Oakland the week before, as a side note , according to the old Cleveland history book is a sleazy 1-7 ATS like a non-conference puppy of 7 or fewer points.

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