Photo Cred: Ravens Facebook
The Ravens went 11-5 last season and made the playoffs as well. During midseason, they looked like a team that could be on the outside looking in. Maybe teams were finally figuring out how to defend against the mobility and arm strength of QB Lamar Jackson. In the end, the former MVP and Heisman winner figured those same defenses out in the latter part of the season, leading to the Ravens’ playoff push. With the 24-year-old Jackson under center, the Ravens have had the best regular-season record outside of the Chiefs and Packers. Baltimore beat the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round 20-13, but the game and season relied heavily on Lamar Jackson running. The Ravens selected WR Rashod Bateman with their first pick (27th OA) in the 2021 NFL Draft. They also added free agent WR Sammy Watkins, who will line up opposite Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. I’m predicting a 12–5 record, which will be enough to win the division.
Photo Cred: Cleveland.com
The Browns are loaded at almost every position. The defense is top-notch, and they have the best RB duo in the league in Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. QB Baker Mayfield dropped his interceptions from 21 in 2019 to just eight last season, and he has a sure-handed target in WR Jarvis Landry. The Browns are hoping that WR Odell Beckham Jr. returns to form after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 7. That being said, Cleveland’s offense seemed to take off after OBJ went down to injury. While Baker may have spread the ball more evenly, OBJ is still one of the best wide receivers in the league when healthy. They are expected to make the playoffs every year now. The Browns will go 11-6 and are no longer bottom feeders.
“Big” Ben Roethlisberger took a pay cut to return in hopes of one last Super Bowl run. Pittsburgh had a hot start last year, with an 11-game winning streak, before the season downturn. For many years, the Steelers have prided themselves on their top-notch defense and run game. Last season, the defense spearheaded Pittsburgh’s initial 11-0 run to start the season. However, the Steelers finished last season with a meager 84.4 rushing yards per game, which was the third straight season Pittsburgh had a bottom-five rushing offense. To combat this, they made an upgrade with the selection of Alabama’s elite running back Najee Harris in the draft. Bud Dupree leaving for Tennessee dealt a blow to the defense but they bolstered their pass defense in the draft and free agency. Pittsburgh will fight for the last playoff spot with a 9-8 record.
Photo Cred: Cincinnati Bengals Facebook
The future is bright but the team is still in a rebuild. The Bengals looked serviceable due to the play of their rookie QB Joe Burrow. Burrow threw for 2,688 passing yards, with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in 11 games. Once he went down with a torn ACL and MCL injury, the team quickly became a non-factor. In the first round, they selected his wide receiver from LSU, Ja’Marr Chase, who will replace A.J. Green as the #1 pass catcher for the team now. The key will be building their offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback, and they did select tackle Jackson Carman and signed tackle Riley Reiff as well to help out with the process. The defense did have more turnover than the offense during the offseason. CBs Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie were signed to protect the backend, while DE Trey Hendrickson and DT Larry Ogunjobi were added to the solid defensive line. The jury is still out on the Bengals as a whole, though. The Bengals do have talented skilled players and aren’t going to be much fun for any opposing defense to face, but still will finish last in the AFC North. I’ll say that they go 6-11.
- Cover Picture: thegamehaus.com
Edited By: Rupayan “Abs” Samanta and Isaac Dirrim.