NFL 2022: Steelers, Ravens, Browns after Bengals’ AFC North crown
The Browns haven’t won the AFC North since the realignment in 2001. The Steelers have done it eight times, the Ravens six and the Bengals five.
The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North in 2021 and advanced to Super Bowl LVI, where they were beaten by the Los Angeles Rams. Whether the Browns will retain their division title in 2022 is anybody’s guess, however. It looks like being a tight fight this season.
Bengals bolster offensive line
One of the reasons the Bengals lost the Super Bowl to the Rams was their inability to protect Joe Burrow. As such, management beefed up the team’s offensive line in free agency with tackle La’el Collins, center Ted Karras and guard Alex Cappa. What’s more, Hayden Hurst will be the tight end accompanying wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
The defending division champions saw their secondary defence as an opportunity to improve, and they did so by adding cornerback Dax Hill in the first round of the last Draft and retaining Jessie Bates with the tag of franchise player.
Jackson contract talks ongoing at Ravens
The hot topic of the offseason in Baltimore has been Lamar Jackson’s contract situation. The quarterback is seeking to become the highest-paid player in his position, but has conducted the negotiations with management himself, since he does not have an agent. With that motivation, the Louisville product can be expected to have an MVP-calibre campaign.
One thing that hurt the Ravens’ offensive performance in 2021 was a lack of healthy running backs. Therefore, Mike Davis and Kenyan Drake have joined the team to accompany J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill. The main shortcoming in the Baltimore offence is the absence of a WR1, since Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay are not yet at that level.
Baltimore’s defence is well placed to carry on from where it left off despite the departure of Don Martindale, because Mike Macdonald was the coach in charge of the LBs from 2018 to 2020. Led by Patrick Queen, the Ravens’ front seven will be a constant threat to opposing quarterbacks.
Trubisky to start season as Steelers’ starting QB
Meanwhile, the Steelers have already designated Mitchell Trubisky as QB1 for the first week of the season. The former Bears and Bills player will be in charge of caring for and distributing the ball to his skill players. The receiving corps of Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and rookie George Pickens will be the alternative to the running game led by Najee Harris.
The good news is that the fate of the team will not depend on what the offence does, but on the work of the defence. The Keith Butler-led unit finished 24th in yards allowed despite T.J. Watt winning Defensive Player of the Year. That prompted management to find a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin.
Browns without Watson for most of regular season
The 11-game suspension given to Deshaun Watson will complicate the Cleveland Browns’ aspirations of reaching the postseason. During this period, the Browns will face the Panthers, Jets, Steelers, Falcons, Chargers, Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, Dolphins, Bills and Buccaneers, so only the games against New York and Pittsburgh look winnable.
Cleveland will therefore rely on Jacoby Brissett for the first half of the season. The veteran QB has a record of 14 wins and 23 losses as a starter. One thing that could ease the pressure on Brissett is the addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper, and the presence of running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Predicted final standings in AFC North
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