Aundray’s AFC North Preview

Let me start off my 2005-2006 NFL preview with the AFC North.
Pittsburgh may still be the team to beat,but one must wonder if QB Big Ben Roethlisberger will have the same phenomenal season as last. Just a hint – defensive coordinators tend to figure out your tendences after reviewing a years worth of film, this has resulted in many a Sophmore jinx. Running back Duce Staley’s physical health is still in question, so an aging Jerome Bettis will be forced to carry the load,who knows if he is up to it. It will be up to wideouts Hines Ward and Antwan Randle-El to carry more of the load and make key plays downfield as teams will try to stack the line and force the Steelers to throw the ball. The Steelers will also sorely miss speedy wideout Plexico Burress who joined the New York Giants in the off season. All in all this team will finish second but should secure a wild card playoff spot.
The Baltimore Ravens are my pick to win this division and here is why. Wideout Derrick Mason and rookie wideout Mark Clayton (from Oklahoma) should help out QB Kyle Boller, not to mention Jamal Lewis at running back with his legal problems behind him hopefully,this team can both grind you down with the running game and keep you honest with the threat of play-action. Let’s also not forget all – everything TE Todd Heap who is now completely healthy. Defense wins championships. That said, this team is changing to a 46 defense, which will leave all-pro linebacker Ray Lewis running free to blow people up. All-Pro cornerback Chris McAllister and All-Pro safety Ed Reed along with future hall of famer Deion Sanders will anchor the defensive backfield. If the offense can average 75 more yards per game than last season, these boys will be really tough to handle.
The Cincinnati Bengals could very well battle the Steelers for the wild card spot. QB Carson Palmer now has an array of weapons at his disposal. WR Chad Johnson is a big time player as well as often injured WR Peter Warrick and rising star WR T.J Houshmandzadeh, however, this trio is young and prone to mistakes. RB Rudy Johnson is a all pro in the making ,power and speed make him a real load to deal with, but it comes down to defense. This Bengal defense must learn to stop the run and hold teams to at least 50 fewer rushing yards per game if this team is to seriously challenge for a playoff berth.
I will not waste your time with eternally rebuilding Cleveland Browns.
Next week it is the AFC South. Drayday66 out.

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