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fordfixer
06-15-2008, 11:30 PM
The AFC North, Now and Later
By JOHN SCHAEFER,AOL Sports
Posted: 2008-06-15 10:35:33
Filed Under: NFL

http://sports.aol.com/nfl/story/_a/the- ... 5209990001 (http://sports.aol.com/nfl/story/_a/the-afc-north-now-and-later/20080610175209990001)
AFC North StorylinesJeff Roberson, APBen Roethlisberger has a lot to live up to after inking a $102 million deal. He won't let down Steelers Nation.


AFC North Storylines Now


All four members of the division rank in the top nine in strength of schedule, including Pittsburgh at No. 1. Whoever wins the North will be hard-pressed to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs beyond the first round ... Ben Roethlisberger bounced back in a big way last year from his dreadful 2006 season. Now the pressure is really on him after he signed a $102 million contract in the offseason ... The pressure might be more intense on Cleveland's Derek Anderson. His play tailed off towards the end of '07, which did nothing to squelch the belief of many that Brady Quinn will take over behind center at some point this season ... Marvin Lewis has his work cut out for him in Cincinnati, as usual. He probably needs a winning season to keep his job, but the lingering Chad Johnson distraction is not helping ... The Ravens are making a fresh start after Brian Billick's nine-year tenure. The team has responded to new coach John Harbaugh with a feisty spirit that was evident during some nasty scuffles in minicamp.


AFC North Storylines Later

As usual, the strength of schedule rankings will mean little. The division will finish with an overall record very similar to last year's 32-32 ... Roethlisberger won't match his 2007 production (32 TD passes, 104.1 passer rating), but he still will have a rating of 90-plus and justify his new contract ... As for Cleveland's Anderson, he had 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in his six best games last season and 11 TDs and 16 interceptions in all the other games. Maybe it's just part of the usual NFL growing pains, but look for him to be mediocre at best in '08 and for Quinn to take over as the starter at some point ... The Johnson situation is bound to only get worse in Cincinnati. He'll do something to earn a suspension from the team, and this will certainly be his last year in a Bengals uniform ... If the Ravens find a consistent passing attack and a suitable sidekick for Willis McGahee, they will have enough to mount a playoff charge. Still, don't expect anything from first-round QB Joe Flacco.

How AFC North Stacks Up Now

1. Steelers
2. Browns
3. Bengals
4. Ravens

How AFC North Will Stack Up Later

1. Steelers
2. Browns
3. Bengals
4. Ravens