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Around the AFC North: Joe Burrow Says Bengals Are 'Better' Than Last Year

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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass during an NFL divisional playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023 in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow Believes Bengals Have Improved Since Last Season

The Bengals can reach the Super Bowl for the second straight season by winning Sunday's AFC championship game against the Chiefs.

Cincinnati's success hasn't surprised quarterback Joe Burrow. He thinks the Bengals are better than last year, when they lost in the Super Bowl to the Rams.

"I think we're a more complete team. I think we're a better team," Burrow said via Geoff Hobson of the team's website. "We just seem to make plays when it counts. That's all there is to say.

"I think our O-line is better. I think our run game is better. I think our defense is better. I think our special teams is better. We're just overall a much better team than we were last year."

In his third season, Burrow has already proven he's one of the NFL's best players, and his swagger has rubbed off on a franchise hungry for its first Lombardi Trophy.

Many sports books in Las Vegas are now favoring the Bengals to beat Kansas City, largely due to the uncertain health status of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes who suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday. But the Bengals are still embracing the underdog role. Many people were surprised by Cincinnati's dominant 27-10 victory over the Bills in the divisional playoffs, but the Bengals believe they have been underrated all season.

"It's a bunch of guys who were doubted," nose tackle D.J. Reader said. "A bunch of guys who didn't get their second contract in the places they were drafted to. And the young boys we drafted, they work hard as hell. They compete. It's a bunch of people that have been doubted. Especially on our defense. We've got, what? One, two first-round draft picks on our defense? We're out there playing ball. That's what matters."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett Wants to Reunite With Jordan Addison

Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett and wide receiver Jordan Addison were a lethal college combination at Pitt, combining for 149 catches, 2,072 yards and 21 touchdowns in two seasons.

Addison transferred to USC last year and continued his production with 59 catches for 875 yards and eight touchdowns. Now he's one of the top prospects in the 2023 draft, and Pickett wants the Steelers to take Addison with the 17th pick.

"We talked about playing in the NFL together while we were at Pitt," Pickett said on Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward's "Not Just Football" podcast.That's like the college teammates' dream - especially for a quarterback and receiver, that kind of dynamic, especially given how well we played together."

NFL.com draft expert Daniel Jeremiah has called Addison the best route runner in the draft. The Steelers didn't ask Pickett to attack downfield often during his rookie season, but he thinks Addison would help make Pittsburgh's offense more explosive.

"There are some guys who run a 4.3 but they don't play at that speed," Pickett said. "What's impressive about him is that he plays at that speed. He's in and out of cuts at that speed. He's an elite receiver and whoever gets him is getting a special talent."

Cleveland Browns: New Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz Has Major Goals

Five years ago, Jim Schwartz was the defensive coordinator with the Eagles when they won Super Bowl LII over the Patriots.

It was Philadelphia's first Super Bowl victory, and Schwartz remembers how much the city embraced that team. After being hired as the Browns' defensive coordinator last week, Schwartz said he wants to help Cleveland experience its first Super Bowl title, taking over a unit led by All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett.

"I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to the fans here to get this right and to reward them because I will forget most plays of the Super Bowl that I was with the Eagles — I forget just about every play in that game — but what I won't forget is that parade afterwards," Schwartz said via Anthony Poisal of the team's website. "It's indelible in my mind. I'll never forget.

"In my mind, there is only one place that would outdo that parade in Philadelphia, and we're here right now."

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