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fordfixer
09-02-2008, 11:58 PM
AFC North: O-HI-o teams top
Doug Orth, PA SportsTicker
Published: Tuesday, September 02, 2008
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news ... 64ec06a797 (http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/sports/story.html?id=9a0a7c81-7662-452a-8260-f464ec06a797)

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Biggest changes: In an all-out attempt to speed up the process from surprise team one year to serious Super Bowl contender the next, the Browns traded a second-round pick for Green Bay DT Corey Williams and a third-round selection from April's draft to acquire DT Shaun Rogers, addressing their biggest weakness from last season - run defence. To give the team another legitimate deep threat besides Pro Bowl WR Braylon Edwards, the team inked former Patriots WR Donte Stallworth to a seven-year, $35 million in March.

Positives: QB Derek Anderson, who somehow wasn't named the starter over Charlie Frye last season, took over the offence after one quarter in Week 1 and came within one touchdown pass of tying Brian Sipe's single-season team record of 30 TDs. RB Jamal Lewis left Baltimore following the 2006 season as a question mark and concluded the 2007 season with a performance reminiscent of his record-breaking 2003 season. Much of that credit goes to an offensive line that made life very easy for both Anderson and Lewis, as 2007 free-agent signee LG Eric Steinbach solidified the inside of the line while 2007 first-round draft choice LT Joe Thomas did not allow a sack and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Edwards fulfilled his vast potential, setting team records with 1,289 yards and 16 scores.

Negatives: Confident in their depth in the defensive backfield, especially at cornerback, the Browns included CB Leigh Bodden in the Rogers deal. Then, on May 13, CB Daven Holly was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament, leaving second-year CBs Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald as the only cornerbacks left to chase receivers in a division that features three recent Pro Bowl wideouts (Hines Ward, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh) and a 100-catch receiver from a season ago (Derrick Mason) and another who is primed for a huge season (Santonio Holmes). For a team eyeing a deep playoff run, Cleveland will need the young corners to play like experienced veterans and hope to get a regular pass rush if it hopes to improve on its bottom-half finish in many of the major pass-defence categories.

On the spot: The defence. The Browns unloaded two high draft picks and spent over $80 million on Williams and Rogers to give their front three some athleticism and, hopefully, the ability to stop the run - a key sore spot last season. Additionally, with the lack of depth due to trade and injury at cornerback, it will be pivotal for Wright and McDonald to keep the opposition off the scoreboard to make sure the offence's efforts aren't all for naught.

Prediction: 9-7. The Browns made enough positive additions - Rogers and Williams in particular - that they could reach the 10-win mark again this season. However, instead of facing two of the weaker divisions last season - the NFC West and AFC East, against which they went a combined 6-2 - they face two of the toughest ones in 2008 in the NFC East and AFC South. In addition, they play two games apiece against a Steelers team they haven't beaten since 2003, an improved Ravens squad and the Bengals, who usually engage the Browns in a pair of unpredictable contests every season.

Tidbit: The Browns' 10 wins last season came against teams with a .343 (55-105) combined winning percentage. In their six losses, however, their opponents' combined winning percentage was .573 (55-41). By comparison, their 2008 strength of schedule checks in as the league's sixth-toughest (tied with two other teams at .547).

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Biggest changes: The Bengals' biggest change is the addition of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to replace Chuck Bresnahan.

While many devout NFL fans will remember Zimmer as the man who oversaw the Atlanta Falcons' defence last season, he comes with a pedigree that no Cincinnati defensive coordinator since Dick LeBeau can match. Six times during Zimmer's tenure as secondary coach and coordinator, the Dallas Cowboys finished fifth or better in the NFL in scoring defence, with three of his teams finishing in the top 10 in total defence. He already has made it quite clear that the Bengals' defence will be a much more physical unit than any in recent memory. ... Former Tennessee Titan DE Antwan Odom was signed to provide the one thing that DE Justin Smith - who signed a rich free-agent deal with San Francisco - could not: a player who could potentially register a double-digit sack season and give opponents someone else to focus on besides pass-rushing specialist DE Robert Geathers.

Positives: RB Chris Perry appears to be healthy for the first time since 2005. His presence, along with the signing of former Indianapolis Colts TE Ben Utecht, give QB Carson Palmer two more weapons to play with in addition to Pro Bowl WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. While Perry will be key to improving the Bengals in third-down situations, Utecht - easily the team's best all-around tight end since three-time Pro Bowler Rodney Holman - will finally force opponents to pick their poison: continue their Cover-2 schemes and leave Utecht free down the middle of the field or play more man coverage, freeing Johnson and Houshmandzadeh to operate absent of the double teams they typically face.

Negatives: Holdouts are rarely ever a good thing, especially for rookies that are expected to start right away. LB Keith Rivers, the Bengals' first-round pick, did not end his contract stalemate until Aug. 5, meaning he missed nine days and 12 practices. ... RB Rudi Johnson was waived after he was sidelined all pre-season by the same hamstring that greatly hampered him most of last season. He had been part of a long injury list that includes Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson, who is questionable for the start of the season with a shoulder sprain. About the only thing going right injury-wise for the Bengals is Perry, who is the healthiest he has been since the Bengals' run to the division title in 2005 and will supplant Johnson as the No. 1 back.

On the spot: Chad Johnson. From Super Bowl week until the middle of the summer, "85" did just about everything short of beg owner Mike Brown to let him leave Cincinnati. Once he found the Bengals unwilling to move him, Johnson went under the radar and under the knife in July, having some loose particles removed from an ankle injury that had bothered him the last two years. He then proclaimed that 2008 would be his best season to date before spraining his left shoulder and partially tearing his labrum in the team's second pre-season contest. While he is coming off a career-high 1,440-yard campaign, the Bengals need Johnson to be a force in every game, something that has not always been the case in recent seasons. Additionally, with the release of Rudi Johnson, the Bengals need Perry both to return strong from his injuries. He hasn't played a regular season snap in two years.

Prediction: 9-7. As the Bengals' head coach, Lewis has finished no worse than last year's 7-9 record in any of five seasons at the helm. The Bengals have done much to improve their defence while committing to power running on offence, which should theoretically make Palmer & Co. even more effective in the passing game. A difficult schedule will mask how much they have actually improved, but they should be right there with Cleveland and Pittsburgh in the end.

Tidbit: In 2005, the year in which the Bengals ended a 14-year absence from the post-season, Cincinnati finished 11th in the NFL in rushing with 119.4 yards per game. The team dropped to 26th in the league in 2006 with 101.8 before sinking to their worst average in Lewis's five seasons in 2008 at 97.3, triggering the coach to re-emphasize the running game this season.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Biggest changes: After leaving no doubt he would bolt Pittsburgh when his contract expired at the end of last season, LG Alan Faneca followed through and landed a monster contract with the New York Jets. The seven-time Pro Bowler will be replaced by Chris Kemoeatu, a 2005 sixth-round draft pick who has made only three NFL starts and missed the first eight days of training camp with a triceps injury. ... Though the team had more pressing needs, Pittsburgh felt as if it could not pass on RB Rashard Mendenhall in the first round or WR Limas Sweed in the second round of April's draft. Mendenhall gives the Steelers a powerful complement to veteran starter and speedster RB Willie Parker, while the 6-4 Sweed gives QB Ben Roethlisberger the big wideout he has craved for years.

Positives: Roethlisberger continued his development in 2007, passing for a team-record 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' pass-happy scheme. ... Parker appears to be back in top form again after suffering a broken leg late last season. To protect themselves against another such misfortune, the Steelers drafted Mendenhall. Arians has already compared his rookie favourably to a young Edgerrin James. ... WR Santonio Holmes took a huge step up in his second season as the best deep threat in the Steelers' receiving corps and may be in line to succeed Hines Ward as Roethlisberger's favorite target as early as this season.

Negatives: While the skilled positions around "Big Ben" continue to improve, the once-vaunted Steelers' offensive line continues to age and lose key players. Although the loss of Faneca was inevitable, the five-time All-Pro selection will be missed in the running and passing game. His loss only adds concern to a line that surrendered 47 sacks last season and a total of 93 over the last two seasons. ... NT Casey Hampton reported to camp well over the 325 pounds head coach Mike Tomlin wanted him at coming into training camp. Heading into his eighth season, Hampton's girth in the middle of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defence is key as he requires a double team, allowing the Steelers' linebackers to run unimpeded to the ball carrier, one reason why the team has finished no worse than sixth in the league against the run in six of the seven years he has been with the team. ... Injuries have already reared their ugly head in the pre-season. P Daniel Sepulveda tore his ACL early in camp and will be lost for the season. Then, on Aug. 9, backup QB Charlie Batch was lost four to six weeks due to a fractured collarbone on a busted play in the Steelers' first pre-season game.

On the spot: The offensive line. The Steelers continue to load up on skill-position talent, but have ignored the offensive line in the draft for the better part of this decade. With the loss of Faneca, no blue-chip talent remains on the front line, partly explaining why the team has allowed so many sacks over the last two seasons. Additionally, Faneca's loss figures to be felt even more in the run game. Expect the Steelers' 4.2 yards-per-carry average - among the top marks in the NFL over the last two seasons - to fall under the 4.0 mark for the first time since 2003.

Prediction: 8-8. While the Steelers' skill-position talent is as good as any in recent Pittsburgh history, the continued erosion of the offensive line will likely cost this team a shot at the post-season. Roethlisberger figures to get sacked even more this season than he has in the past two and not even a quarterback with his size will withstand 50-plus sacks without some kind of consequence. Also, thanks to their division title and some tough luck in drawing the NFC East of the schedule rotation, the Steelers will face the toughest schedule (.598 opponents' winning percentage). Not only is that by far the highest opponents' winning percentage dating to 2002 - when the NFL implemented its current scheduling formula - but it also makes a playoff run very unlikely as only three of the 11 teams in that time made the post-season and only two even reached the 10-win mark.

Tidbit: Despite their long history of smash-mouth football, Mendenhall was the first running back since Tim Worley in 1989 to be a first-round pick by the Steelers. On the other hand, Sweed is the fifth receiver to be selected in either the first or second round by Pittsburgh, joining Troy Edwards (1999), Plaxico Burress (2000), Antwaan Randle El (2002) and Santonio Holmes (2006).

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Biggest changes: This edition of the Ravens will be significantly different from the one a season ago at several of the most important positions. John Harbaugh, who served as the Philadelphia Eagles' special teams coach the past nine years, takes over for the fired Brian Billick. Then, to provide some semblance of head-coaching experience as well as an innovative offensive mind, Baltimore named Cam Cameron its offensive coordinator after he went one-and-out as Miami's head coach.

Cameron made his name as the San Diego Chargers' play-caller from 2002-06, calling the shots for the Chargers in 2006 when LaDainian Tomlinson set the single-season league scoring record.

While serving as a sounding board for Harbaugh, his contribution figures to come in reviving an offence that finished no better than 14th in total offence during Billick's nine-year tenure. ... QB Steve McNair's retirement thrust Baltimore into a three-man, winner-take-all derby at the quarterback position. The Ravens used a first-round pick on Delaware QB Joe Flacco, who figures to assume the mantle at some point this season unless 2007 fifth-round selection Troy Smith or former first-round choice Kyle Boller run away with the job in the pre-season, which they have not to this point.

Positives: Acquiring CB Fabian Washington for a mid-round draft pick from the Oakland Raiders was a master stroke by the Ravens, who saw their usually dominant defence reduced to also-ran status last season as starting CBs Chris McAlister (knee) and Samari Rolle (epilepsy) missed significant time in the second half of the season. Washington's presence should allow defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to be even more aggressive with his blitzing schemes. ... The Ravens made a wise move selecting RB Ray Rice in the second round of April's draft. Not only does he provide solid insurance behind injury-prone RB Willis McGahee, but he figures to move past him on the depth chart in the next year or two.

Negatives: DE-OLB Terrell Suggs held out until Aug. 18 in protest of the franchise tag the team placed on him in the off-season while S Ed Reed continues his return from a shoulder injury. Suggs is coming off his least productive season as a pro (five sacks) while Reed's presence is necessary as he is Baltimore's most feared playmaker outside of MLB Ray Lewis. ... Even though his usual dominant play began to wane last season, retired LT Jonathan Ogden will be very difficult to replace. ... It has been said that if a team has two quarterbacks engaged in a "competition," it really has none. So what happens if they have three? Such is the case for Ravens, who will be trying to set the course for their future at the position in the pre-season.

On the spot: The quarterback position. While McNair didn't play particularly well and was injured for most of his last NFL season, the fact he still continued to start for most of the season over Boller and Smith can't be taken as a good thing.

That said, Cameron is one of the sharper offensive minds in the game, so his influence may be able to compensate for some of the holes in Baltimore's offence. The winner of three-way QB battle then has to hope that TE Todd Heap will survive the 16-game schedule. The two-time Pro Bowler played in only six contests last year for the second time in four seasons.

Prediction: 7-9. While Harbaugh could very well follow in the footsteps of the last person to go from being primarily a special teams coordinator to head coach - Bill Cowher - his energy will carry this team only so far. The Ravens will be physical and won't commit a ton of errors, but they lack enough offensive talent to take a significant leap in the standings this season.

Tidbit: Browns QB Derek Anderson, waived by the Ravens in hopes that no team would claim so he could land on the practice squad just after the start of the 2005 season, went to the Pro Bowl last season with Cleveland after throwing for 3,787 yards and 29 TDs. If he had amassed those totals with Baltimore, each of those single-season totals would have landed him in second place behind Vinny Testaverde on the Ravens' all-time list. Since the Ravens came into existence in 1996, only one quarterback has made the Pro Bowl (Testaverde, 1996).

Djfan
09-03-2008, 02:01 AM
He's just rehashing the same stupid stuff the other idiots are spouting out.

My prediction: He'll still be writing internet articles that copy every other internet article for years to come.

Flasteel
09-03-2008, 06:43 AM
Relax, he's Canadian...they're all high. :lol:

http://i38.tinypic.com/5x0w2a.jpg

Go Defence!

Go Offence!!

:lol: :lol: :lol:

rpmpit
09-03-2008, 07:32 AM
http://sfangels.com/images/South%20Park-%20Mothers%20Against%20Canada%20TShirts.jpg

phillyesq
09-03-2008, 08:03 AM
I hope that every article I read is like this one. The Steelers seem to play much better as underdogs than favorites.

ROLROC
09-03-2008, 01:16 PM
what's wrong with the write-up?
ben is improving, along with the skill positions.
39 is healthy and we drafted 34 to keep him fresh.
OL is a HUGE question mark going into the season as is FAT casey.
sorry- with our schedule, 8-8 is not unreaslistic.
he has the other teams in the division within a game of us.
i agree, the race for the divsion will come down towards the end.

Rickt011
09-04-2008, 04:05 PM
A bit unrealistic in my opinion, I see us going 8-8, but I see the Bungles going 5-11 and the Stains going 7-9 and the Ratstains 6-10. The AFCN is the weakest division in the AFC. We win it by default the best record! LoL One n done in the play offs again.

RussBII
09-04-2008, 04:14 PM
A bit unrealistic in my opinion, I see us going 8-8, but I see the Bungles going 5-11 and the Stains going 7-9 and the Ratstains 6-10. The AFCN is the weakest division in the AFC. We win it by default the best record! LoL One n done in the play offs again.

If the Steelers win the division w/ an 8-8 mark, that almost guarantees that a team with a better record won't make the playoffs. The whole reseeding the playoffs talk will start anew...

Anyone know the worst division winning record ever?

calmkiller
09-04-2008, 05:47 PM
Thats wayyyyyy to much to read.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
09-05-2008, 12:35 PM
While I disagree with the conclusions that this guy reached, the reasoning is sound. He does come across with pretty accurate strengths and weaknesses for each team, it is just how he applies those facts that bring him to different conclusions.

For example, one can say that the Browns losing their two corners will expose an already weak secondary. You can also conclude that a bolstered pass rush will help offset the drop off in the secondary. What you can't get to is the addition of Rogers will make the Browns D one of the top 5 in the league......and he doesn't say anything like that.

So, while you might not like what this guy says, you certainly can't accuse him of being stoned just because he thinks that the Browns will be a better team than the Steelers are this year.

And, by the way, as for the comments that he is from Canada...look closer. While this link did come from a Canadian feed, the byline is from PA. :wink:

rpmpit
09-05-2008, 01:17 PM
While I disagree with the conclusions that this guy reached, the reasoning is sound. He does come across with pretty accurate strengths and weaknesses for each team, it is just how he applies those facts that bring him to different conclusions.

For example, one can say that the Browns losing their two corners will expose an already weak secondary. You can also conclude that a bolstered pass rush will help offset the drop off in the secondary. What you can't get to is the addition of Rogers will make the Browns D one of the top 5 in the league......and he doesn't say anything like that.

So, while you might not like what this guy says, you certainly can't accuse him of being stoned just because he thinks that the Browns will be a better team than the Steelers are this year.

And, by the way, as for the comments that he is from Canada...look closer. While this link did come from a Canadian feed, the byline is from PA. :wink:

I know :oops:

But I've been waiting so long to use my South Park anti-Canada pic :lol: :lol:

RuthlessBurgher
09-05-2008, 02:00 PM
While I disagree with the conclusions that this guy reached, the reasoning is sound. He does come across with pretty accurate strengths and weaknesses for each team, it is just how he applies those facts that bring him to different conclusions.

For example, one can say that the Browns losing their two corners will expose an already weak secondary. You can also conclude that a bolstered pass rush will help offset the drop off in the secondary. What you can't get to is the addition of Rogers will make the Browns D one of the top 5 in the league......and he doesn't say anything like that.

So, while you might not like what this guy says, you certainly can't accuse him of being stoned just because he thinks that the Browns will be a better team than the Steelers are this year.

And, by the way, as for the comments that he is from Canada...look closer. While this link did come from a Canadian feed, the byline is from PA. :wink:

I know :oops:

But I've been waiting so long to use my South Park anti-Canada pic :lol: :lol:

Blame Canada! Blame Canada!
With all that hockey hullabaloo,
and that b*tch Anne Murray too!

:lol:

Rickt011
09-06-2008, 07:34 PM
A bit unrealistic in my opinion, I see us going 8-8, but I see the Bungles going 5-11 and the Stains going 7-9 and the Ratstains 6-10. The AFCN is the weakest division in the AFC. We win it by default the best record! LoL One n done in the play offs again.

If the Steelers win the division w/ an 8-8 mark, that almost guarantees that a team with a better record won't make the playoffs. The whole reseeding the playoffs talk will start anew...

Anyone know the worst division winning record ever?

It's happen before, and I serious believe we are a 8-8 team, maybe worse the OL will decide that. Sorry I don't see the rosy picture that this team is super bowl bound. This team has a bunch of problems and little was done this off season to shore up the LOS.