2015 AFC North

AFC North (2014 Finish: Steelers, Bengals, Ravens, Browns)

Overall: I did pretty well here as well. The Steelers were better than I expected and the Bengals were worse, but other than that I nailed it.

I see this division dropping off a cliff. Overall it’s old, with the Ravens the youngest team at 15th. It was also lucky when it came to injuries, as none of the teams in this division were in the bottom half of the league. Also, both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh significantly outperformed their Pythagorean win total.

Last year, this division got 3 teams in the playoffs. At least 1 of the 6 teams that were in the playoffs in 2014 that will not be in 2015 come from here. I actually expect to see 2, but it’s possible Cincinnati gets lucky.

Baltimore Ravens
2014 Record: 10-6 (Pythagorean Wins: 10.9)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 7th
2015 Age Rank: 15th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 5th (9th / 8th / 2nd)

I was totally wrong about Baltimore last year. I thought they’d have some holes they could not cover. Instead, they ended up as the 5th most efficient team and were good across the board, 9th on offense, 8th on defense, and 2nd on teams.

They were middle of the pack in terms of age last year, and they’ve gotten slightly younger. I don’t see much regression here. I do think they’ll have a few more injuries this year.

I see this team winning 11 games and winning this division handily.

Cincinnati Bengals
2014 Record: 10-5-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.6)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 16th
2015 Age Rank: 20th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 13th (18th / 14th / 6th)

I said last year they were stacked on offense with a lot of good players everywhere. If I was right, they didn’t show it by their average performance of 18th in the NFL. Their defense was also average at 16th. At least they had good special teams.

There are pieces here, but I don’t see them connecting well enough to matter. They were average in just about every category last year. I think they’ll be average again.

Could they get lucky again and out perform their Pythagorean win total? Sure. However, everything I see suggests an 8-8 team.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2014 Record: 11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.7)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 4th
2015 Age Rank: 26th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 8th (2nd / 30th / 12th)

Part of the reason that I was wrong about this team is that they were lucky when it came to injuries, ending up at 4th in the NFL. Given that they’re the 26th youngest team this year that’s not going to happen again. They’ve already lost Maurice Pouncey on the o-line.

They were also lucky in general, outperforming their Pythagorean record significantly.

They were carried by the 2nd best offense in the NFL in 2014, and I was right about Antonio Brown. Their offense will be very good again, but will drop to somewhere around 8th or 9th.

Their defense, though, was 30th. Maybe we’ll see significant improvement here. Having Ryan Shazier back will help, but I still think there are just too many holes. They’ll improve some, but not much.

Injuries will hit this team hard, and Steeler fans will be crying into their Terrible Towels. The Steelers will score lots of points but watch the playoffs just like I will.

Cleveland Browns
2014 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 6.9)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 14th
2015 Age Rank: 16th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 23rd (24th / 12th / 14th)

I’m actually tempted to pick them higher than the Steelers. I think overall, there’s more on this team than in Pittsburgh.

The problem, however, is that Ben Roethlisberger is a very good QB, and the Browns are wretched at QB. Johnny Manziel has shown flashes, and it’s possible he could turn into a productive NFL QB, but it’s unlikely and certainly won’t happen in 2015.

It’s too bad, because they actually have a pretty good OLine and defense. I think they’re defense may improve slightly, but this team will do about the same as last year.

If they get lucky, they’ll win 8 games and be in the playoff hunt for a while, but will eventually flop and crush the souls of the Dog Pound yet again.

If they get unlucky, hello 3rd or 4th pick in the 2016 draft.

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