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2021 AFC North Preview

Predicted Order of Finish

AFC North

1. Cleveland- expectations are high in Cleveland after an 11 win season followed up by Wild Card victory over the Steelers, rookie HC Kevin Stefanski was named AP Coach of the Year, QB Baker Mayfield gets much of the attention and commercials and rightfully so as he has brought enthusiasm and swagger back to an organization that had been in the doldrums for years, however it was the backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt along with strong O-Line that led a third ranked rushing offense and helped take pressure of Mayfield and the passing game, the passing game should improve in the second year under the staff along with the return of 1-2 punch of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, improving the defense that finished 21 in points allowed was the focal point in the offseason signing ends Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley, the Browns also drafted cornerback Greg Newsome II with their first round pick, the offense should continue to do its thing and if the offseason additions can shore up the defense a division title and deep run in the playoffs should be the bar

2. Pittsburgh- after an 11-0 the Steelers took a nose dive the final 6 games going 1-5 and bowing out in the first round of the playoffs, an inept run game that ranked last in the NFL in 2020 along with a struggling O-Line was a big reason behind the collapse, former QB coach Matt Canada takes over as coordinator and will get a boost in the run game from first round pick Najee Harris, the front office also went out and signed 3 lineman and used a third and fourth round pick on two more to add more talent depth up front, the defense was championship caliber last year ranking third in scoring and first in sacks, the entire D-Line returns, however the linebacker unit lost Bud Dupree and the secondary lost corners Mike Hilton and Steve Nelson, the roster may not be Super Bowl level but as long a Ben Roethlisberger is on the field they are a threat in the North

3. Baltimore- Lamar Jackson finally got his first playoff victory last year once again leading a dominant rushing attack that gained over 3,000 yards on the ground again in 2020, the passing game however ranked last in the NFL and Jackson’s touchdowns dropped while his interceptions went up leaving many still questioning whether or not his style of play can sustain success in the NFL, the Ravens went out and drafted WR Rashod Bateman in the first round to try to juice up the passing game, the defense ranked near the top of the league in both rush and pass yards allowed but was only middle of the pack in sacks, rookie linebacker Patrick Queen led the team and tackles and will continue to develop into one of the leaders, cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey are stars in the secondary, the pressure will be on Jackson to continue developing his skills as coordinators have another year of film to scheme against him

4. Cincinnati- rookie QB Joe Burrow passed for 2,688 yards and 13 touchdowns in a injury shortened season, he showed plenty of moxie despite playing with one of the worst lines in the NFL, with the loss of longtime Bengal receiver AJ Green the offense added former teammate of Burrow at LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase with their first round pick, Chase will work alongside Tee Higgins and Tyler Body giving Burrow a solid trio to throw to, the O-Line will look for much needed help from second round pick Jackson Carman and offseason signee Riley Reiff, the defense struggled mightily against the run and getting pressure on quarterbacks in 2020, the front office made a big offseason move bringing in Trey Hendrickson from New Orleans to strengthen the line, the team also drafted three ends and a tackle to add depth up front, the secondary welcomes Mike Hilton from Pittsburgh and Chidobe Awuzie from Dallas, Burrow should be fun to watch but it will take plenty of improvement on both lines to climb up the North standings

Buy- None

Sell- Baltimore

Best Bet- Baltimore UNDER total wins

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