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With Pittsburgh most likely being the sexy pick for the majority of NFL expects, expect the AFC North to be one of the most open divisions in 2008.

Note:  Teams are listed in predicted order of finish

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are a team who when you expect them to be good (2007), they are not and when you expect them to bad (2008), they could prove you wrong.

I am going to take the latter, as the Bengals simply have too much offensive firepower with QB Carson Palmer and WR’s Chad Johnson and T.J.  Houshmandzadeh.  The recent roster cut of RB Rudi Johnson who has been one of the most consistent RB’s in the NFL in recent years will surely hurt the running game.  However, something tells me that the combination of RB Chris Perry, Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey will be more than feasible.  Additionally, the offense will also receive a boost from free agent signing of TE Ben Utecht who will help to open up the middle of the field for Palmer.

The only question as always for the Bengals will be not how much they can score, but how much they will give up.  Rookie LB Keith Rivers will be counted upon heavily to sure up the middle of what hopes to be an opportunistic defense.

Predicted Record: 10-6

Playoffs: Yes

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have clearly improved offensively over the past year in the most inexpensive way:  the draft.  Selecting WR Limas Sweed and RB Rashard Mendenhall will help to round out an already productive unit with QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Willie Parker, WR’s Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes and TE Heath Miller.

The biggest problem that I do see with the Steelers is how well they will protect Roethlisberger.  The loss of Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca to the Jets will hurt immensely not only in with his talent but most importantly with his experience.

I see Roethlisberger taking a great deal of hits this season and not having enough time to utilize all of his offensive weapons.  This in part with a difficult non divisional schedule that includes games against the Eagles, Jaguars, Giants, Colts, Chargers, Patriots and Cowboys will make it extremely difficult for the Steelers to make the playoffs.

Predicted Record: 8-8

Playoffs: No

Cleveland Browns

The Browns were one of the most improved and surprising teams in 2007 finishing at 10-6 despite not making the playoffs. And while expectations are high as one could imagine in 2008, the Browns like the Steelers can expect and up and down season.

The intriguing part is I think that the Browns are a better team than they were a year ago due to the trades where they acquired DT’s Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers.  The Browns also signed free agent WR Donte Stallworth.  The combination of Williams and Rogers will drastically improve the Browns ability to defend the run while Stallworth will help to deter attention away from WR Braylon Edwards.

Overall though faced with an extremely difficult schedule and a QB controversy that will linger all year, the Browns will finish below .500 and out of the playoff race.

Predicted Record: 6-10

Playoffs: No

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are a team where their defense will always keep them in the game.  The problem however lies with their offense who will struggle to score touchdowns all season.

With Kyle Boller now out for the season and with inexperienced backups in Troy Smith and rookie Joe Flacco, will Ravens will experience a great deal of growing pains in 2008.

Predicted Record: 4-12

Playoffs: No

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