If you paid attention to our site yesterday, you would have seen that we gave you a heads up that ESPN's "SportsCenter" program was going to do a rundown of the AFC North on Tuesday night. A group comprised of Herm Edwards, Marcellus Wiley, and Bill Polian all sounded off on the four teams in the bruising division. They ran down the offseasons that each club had, as well as what they figured would be the final standings in the division.
ESPN's AFC North blogger, Jamison Hensley, provides a summary of what was said about the division by the three men. It may or may not surprise you as to what they had to say.
Former Jets and Chiefs head coach, Herm Edwards, predicted that the reigning champion would once again top the division. Behind those Ravens, he had the Bengals sitting second, followed by the Steelers and Browns. He explained his stance:
"There's a lot of change in Pittsburgh right now and I'm sorry, Cleveland, that's where you sit."
Wiley, a frequent critic of the Bengals in years past on the network, echoed what Edwards had to say. He believes that the Ravens and Bengals will finish one-two in the division, followed by the Steelers and Browns. Wiley's response shows that he is still skeptical of Cincinnati, but he begrudgingly recognizes the talent:
"[The Bengals] will have the same record as the Steelers but they win the tiebreaker because it sounds like heresy to say the Steelers are third in their division. [They're] followed by an improved Cleveland Browns team."
It was former Bills and Colts executive, Bill Polian, picking the Bengals to win the division to the surprise of some. Behind Cincinnati, he had the Ravens finishing second and the Steelers and Browns following behind that. Touching on the moves that Cincinnati has made over the past couple of months, Polian said:
"I believe the Bengals, because they've had such a great offseason, will win the division. The Ravens will be a close second and be reckoned with in the playoffs."
In case you didn't notice, not one of these analysts picked the Bengals to finish worse than second in the division. With these predictions, we assume that they are of the opinion that the team will return to the playoffs once again in 2012. If they were to achieve that, it would be the first time in three decades that the club did it.
In what's becoming a surprising trend amongst analysts, the Steelers are being slighted and overlooked in lieu of the Bengals and Ravens. Though they've had a relatively rough offseason in the Mike Wallace contract debacle and a very quiet free agency, they drafted well and can never be counted out. Pittsburgh is aging at certain positions though and that could have quite a bit to do with that notion.