The AFC North has long been an easy division to predict. You could always count on the Pittsburgh Steelers competing for Super Bowls, the Baltimore Ravens being boring yet effective, the Cincinnati Bengals fizzling out at the end of the year, and the Cleveland Browns tripping over their own feet. This season could have some interesting developments, however, as a flurry of offseason moves has dramatically shifted the balance of power.
2018 Record 7-8-1
The Cleveland Browns experienced a wide array of emotions last season. From firing head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley half way through the season to winning their first game in over 600 days on prime-time TV behind their #1 overall pick.
In the back half of the season, the Browns finished 2nd in overall offense and look carry that momentum into 2019 after the blockbuster trade for WR Odell Beckham Jr. and the signing of Kareem Hunt this offseason.
Kevin Zeitler (OL), Jabrill Peppers (S)
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR), Olivier Vernon (DE), Kareem Hunt (RB)
Season Win Total
Over(-115)/Under (-115) 9 Wins
With two Pro Bowl DEs bearing down on opposing QBs, a two-headed monster in the backfield, and one of the best WR tandems in all of football, this Browns team should be exciting to watch on both sides of the ball. The question surrounding this team isn’t “are they talented enough?” It’s whether first year HC Freddie Kitchens can get all this talent to put aside their egos for the greater good. Should that happen, there is no reason why we should not be watching football on the frozen shores of Lake Erie come January.
Fantasy Radar: Nick Chubb
In an offense loaded with super stars, Chubb will be the beneficiary of defenses backing off the line of scrimmage to watch out for the dangerous passing attack led by Baker, OBJ, and Landry. Chubb had one of the most productive seasons once he took over for Carlos Hyde mid way through the year and I expect him to build upon his strong rookie campaign.
2018 Record: 9-6-1
The 2018 Steelers started the season as Super Bowl contenders. That dream slowly drifted away as the team dealt with turmoil and hold outs between two of its most valuable offensive weapons, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers ended the season missing the playoffs for the first time in the past four years.
Antonio Brown (WR), Le’Veon Bell (RB)
Mark Barron (LB), Donte Moncrief (WR), Steve Nelson (CB)
Season Win Total
Over(120)/Under(-110) 9 Wins
Down to just one “Killer B,” expect the Steelers offense to look starkly different than the last several years. Can Juju Smith-Schuster step up as a true No. 1 WR now that defenses don’t need to shadow Antonio Brown? Can James Conner replicate his breakout year, or was it just a flash in the pan? While Big Ben has enough talent to keep his team in most games this year, there are just too many unknowns with this Steelers team to win more than 8 games.
Fantasy Radar: Donte Moncrief
We’ve seen time and time again that Big Ben can exploit defenses and take what they give him. With much attention going to Smith-Schuster, I expect Ben to take advantage of mismatches in coverage and looking Moncrief’s way.
2018 Record 10-6
The Baltimore Ravens are defending AFC North champs thanks to the scrambling their way to a 6-1 finish last season. Jackson was very effective toward the end of the season but his limitations passing the ball were on full blast come playoff time. Head coach Harbaugh has stated he has a new effective offense for his player, but don’t expect it to look too much different from last season. The ceiling for this team rests on the passing ability of Jackson.
CJ Mosley (LB), Terrell Suggs (DE), Joe Flacco (QB)
Mark Ingram (RB), Earl Thomas (S)
Season Win Total
Over(+105)/Under(135) 8 ½ Wins.
There has been no indication that Lamar Jackson has learned how to throw a football during the offseason. After the wacky offense that Baltimore implemented last year, they went on quite a roll and made the playoffs.
I expect that the league will catch up with the second-year signal caller, and that we will see results similar to the Wildcard game last year. Also, there is no telling when Lamar’s aggressive running will eventually get him hurt and really throw a wrench into Harbaugh’s plans. Jackson’s athleticism will win Baltimore some games, but with a defense that lost three of its key contributors from a year ago, I see the Ravens taking a step back this season.
Fantasy Radar: Mark Ingram
This offense is built to run the ball down the other team’s throat and who better to do that than Mark Ingram. Ingram has been a consistent fantasy scorer while splitting time with Alvin Kamara and being a part of a loaded Saints offense. With Ingram getting his chance to be the lead back once again, I look for him to post big numbers in Baltimore this year.
2018 Record 6-10
The Bengals struggled last season on both sides of the ball. They were cursed with the injury bug, and by the end of the season their team was unrecognizable and boy did it get ugly.
With a lame duck head coach, things spiraled out of control quickly. They look to bounce back under newly hired head coach Zac Taylor this year, but are facing a serious uphill battle.
Vontaze Burfict (LB), Michael Johnson (DE)
B.W Webb (CB), John Miller (OL)
Season Win Total
Over(+100)/Under(-130) 6 wins
Unfortunately for Bengals fans, a lot has already gone awry for the team and we haven’t even made it to Week 2 of the pre-season yet. First round draft pick Jonah Williams (OL) went down with a season-ending shoulder injury during OTAs and standout WR, A.J. Green suffered an ankle injury that required surgery early in camp. If I’m a Cincinnati fan, I’m trading in my Bengals tickets and driving two hours north to adopt the Buckeyes as my professional football team.
Fantasy Radar: Joe Mixon
When healthy, Mixon has been one of the best players on the Bengals and one of the better players in the league. With the Red Rocket’s favorite target sidelined for the foreseeable future, I expect Cincinnati to lean on Mixon to move the ball down the field.