2014 NFL Preview and Predictions

Aaron Rodgers

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7: The AFC North is the most unimpressive division in football. The team that should be given the edge was, by default, the Cincinnati Bengals. But it was not long ago that Ben Roethlisberger was performing magic tricks in the backfield and turning sacks into first downs. In what was considered a down year for the Steelers, they still managed an 8-8 record, including a three-game winning streak to finish the year. When the dust settles, the experienced team, held down for two straight years, looks like the one that could rise to the top.

Cincinnati Bengals 7-9: What have the Bengals done to lose the respect of the analysts across the board? Nothing. The truth is, they should have never gained it in the first place. Maybe it’s because Andy Dalton gives off the Ryan Tannehill ‘average quarterback’ perception, or because no one expected the Bengals to make the playoffs two, let alone three years in a row. Whatever it is, their meteoric rise through the AFC North deserves to be questioned, and all too often, a year for things to reset themselves is necessary.

Baltimore Ravens 7-9: The Ravens suffered one of the worst Super Bowl hangover years in recent memory, and go into 2014 looking to rebound without their starting running back Ray Rice for the first two games. Joe Flacco is out to prove that his 2012 playoff performance was no fluke, but the Ravens look more like a team leaving the Super Bowl rather than heading towards it.

Cleveland Browns 7-9: The only team that could compete with St. Louis for media coverage this offseason, the Browns owned a multi-week debate over their starting quarterback decision. When it was finally announced that Brian Hoyer, and not Johnny Manziel, would start, there was another round of analysis that followed. Despite Manziel’s arrogance, he does not give his team the best chance to win. Unfortunately, Hoyer won’t be good enough to hold off the media firestorm that will follow when the team struggles, and 2014 will eventually include a transition from Hoyer to Manziel.

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Mario Mergola
Mario Mergola is a writer, avid sports fan, former ESPN Radio producer, husband, and father who specializes in finding the hidden gems of the less-explored option. Follow @MarioMergola

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