Bold AFC North Predictions? The Boldest

Some quick thoughts about very real possibilities for the division in 2010...

Baltimore Ravens:

The Oher & Gaither switch at offensive tackle doesn't work out...

           It's still not completely clear to me why the team is choosing to flip their starting tackles. By all accounts the pair did great at their respective positions in '09 and shouldn't be tampered with. They do have the physical size to make the switch, with Oher being the smaller of the two and Gaither weighing in around 340. But If you have a lock-down left tackle like Gaither was last year, he should remain at the spot.  His size and run-blocking can be utilized just as easily on the left side.  Honestly, I think the switch was made to service the ego of Michael "The Blind Side" Oher, the Ravens' first round pick in '09. There is a lot of talk about Oher's natural talent and how it's "his" spot, but why should the team move him to left tackle when his performance last year (especially against Pittsburgh) indicated a much better run-blocker than pass-blocker. Gaither must feel slighted by the team's decision to at least rotate the two tackles, and possibly even move him from the traditionally high-paying left-tackle position (by the way it is a contract year for him). I see a player who knows he's under-appreciated and already believes he won't be re-signed by the front office at season's end.

Ray Rice struggles with injuries in his 3rd season...

            To wish an injury upon a rival is pitiful, and a sure-fire way to unleash the Henchman of Football Karma upon your own roster. I do not say this with any hopes or desires for it to happen, but a guy who touches the ball as many times as Rice does is bound to see an injury at some point. Truth be told, I hope Lil' Ray stays healthy and puts up another great fight this year, he had the most impressive run against our defense in '09 by far. But like Tomlinson in San Diego and Steve Slaton in Houston, when a team places such a load on a running back's shoulders for entire seasons at a time, the touches take their toll.


Pittsburgh Steelers:

Hines Ward doesn't produce....

             Hines' age is rarely mentioned, and for good reason, he rarely misses games and his production improved again last year to 95 catches for 1,167 yards and 6 TDs. He is 34, though, and Santonio Holmes had been considered the team's main receiving threat for years now, possibly masking any decline in Ward's skills statistically. Mike Wallace played well last year but neither he, nor a returning Antwan Randle El, will demand double-coverages as frequently as Holmes did, leaving plenty of defensive backs to deal with the savvy veteran. Besides the downgraded receiving corps. around him, Ward's physicality in the blocking game might also rapidly decline with age... going full-speed into every block, helmet-first, might not suit the man in his mid-30s.

The Steelers run out of QBs...

            The team is currently working out who will start between Dixon, Leftwich, or even Batch, while Big Ben is on the side-burner for at least 4 games. Again I do not wish an injury upon any of these players, but they should be worried about serious health issues at the quarterback position. This is a bad mix of players to depend on. Leftwich doesn't move around in the pocket, Dixon is likely to scramble, and Batch is coming off a recent knee injury. If either Leftwich or Dixon go down at all, their available reliable options go from none to 'none - 1'. Facing the revamped pass-rush schemes of Atlanta, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay may surprise an O-line that lost it's best player in Willie Colon, and is used to having an improvisation artist like Roethlisberger under center.  By the middle of week 4 against Baltimore, Randle El may be the one getting sacked.

Cleveland Browns

D'Qwell Jackson becomes the weak link in the front seven...

           Cleveland's pass rush was pretty decent last year and they've continued to add pieces to the front seven. Scott Fujita now brings a championship ring to the unit, and the D-line is beginning to get plain scary with Rogers, Robaire Smith, Corey Williams, and Ahtyba Rubin. D'Qwell has been an asset gobbling up tackles everywhere, but he rarely gets penetration at all and makes no big plays whatsoever. If that trend continues next year Holmgren might start thinking he needs more than just a safety-net as the centerpiece of his defense.

Clifton Geathers storms the universe...

          The 6'7", 299 lb., little brother of Robert was drafted by the Browns in the 6th round this year as a defensive end in their 3-4 scheme. Despite being such a late pick, Geathers is poised to take over for Kenyon Coleman as the final piece of the defensive line.

Cincinnati Bengals

Palmer approaches the record for TD passes in a season...

           If the team stays relatively healthy and the offensive line shows any improvement in pass protection at all, Palmer has the tools around him to do the impossible. He has the skills, confidence, and work ethic to do absolutely anything with this cast of receivers, running backs, and tight ends. The team will remain run-oriented but this only works to Palmer's advantage statistically (as we've seen in the past in '05 and '06).

Jimmy Page and/or Robert Plant perform during Halftime of SB XLIV...

           Right after Ocho scores his 2nd  touchdown of the night (Palmer's 4th), the Bengals and Saints will return to the locker rooms for Half time. Before Ced comes back out to shut things down, some contingent of Led Zeppelin will play a medley in an attempt to win more audiences in the U.K. and the rest of Europe.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors.

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