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Around the AFC North: Final Predictions for 2023 Season

DE Brent Urban
DE Brent Urban

With "Kickoff Week" upon us, the final predictions are rolling in.

Here's what some of the prominent outlets envision for the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens

Biggest strength: "Put up points. Since 2019, the Ravens have averaged 26.9 points with Lamar Jackson as their starting quarterback -- which is nearly what the Chiefs have averaged with Mahomes over that span (27.3). Now, Jackson has the best supporting cast of his six-year career with the addition of wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers. The Ravens also hired Todd Monken as their offensive coordinator after his offense averaged 40.7 points last season at Georgia."

Biggest weakness: "Cornerback. With Marlon Humphrey possibly missing the start of the season after having foot surgery, the Ravens' top options at cornerback are three players who are coming off injuries: Rock Ya-Sin, Ronald Darby and Jalyn Armour-Davis. Baltimore struggled mightily the last time Humphrey was sidelined. When Humphrey missed the last five games in 2021, the Ravens allowed an NFL-worst 294.6 yards passing per game and 12 touchdown passes (second worst in the league)." – via ESPN’s Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest strength: "Run an efficient offense. Last season, the Bengals ranked fifth in points per drive (2.34) and red zone efficiency (64.9%), the highest finishes in those categories in the Joe Burrow era. Even when defenses forced Burrow into shorter passes to gain yards, Cincinnati still ended 27.8% of its drives for touchdowns. If the Bengals can create more drives and maintain that touchdown rate, the combo could yield one of the NFL's best offenses."

Biggest weakness: "Offensive line. The Bengals have significantly improved the offensive line over the past two years by putting new starters at all five spots. However, there's still a gap between that unit and the others on the team. Bringing in Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle, moving Jonah Williams to right tackle and a second year of chemistry for the interior players could be crucial to improving a unit that ranked 30th in pass block win rate (50.1%) in 2022." – via ESPN’s Ben Baby

Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest strength: "Rush the passer. The Steelers have former Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt anchoring one side, and they signed Alex Highsmith to an extension in the offseason following a career-best 14.5-sack season. And behind Watt and Highsmith, the Steelers have the best depth they've had in recent years. They signed Markus Golden in free agency and drafted Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig in the fourth round. At 6-2, 228 pounds, Herbig has been a pleasant surprise in the preseason with 3.5 sacks in three games."

Biggest weakness: "Offensive line. It's hard to fully gauge an offensive line before the start of the regular season, and the starting unit has performed well in small in-game sample sizes. Both the run blocking and pass protection have looked better than they did even late last season -- did you catch the perfectly blocked 62-yard Jaylen Warren preseason touchdown? -- but the biggest test will come Week 1 against a 49ers defense that added former Steeler Hargrave to a front that already has reigning DPOY Nick Bosa -- holdout notwithstanding." – via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor

Cleveland Browns

Biggest strength: "Rush the passer. All-Pro Myles Garrett has never had a teammate reach double-digit sacks. That could change with the arrival of Za'Darius Smith, who has finished with 10-plus sacks in three of the past four seasons and appears to be over the knee injury that plagued him last year. Garrett was the most double-teamed edge rusher (31.1%) in the league last year. If that continues, Smith will have plenty of favorable opportunities to get to the quarterback."

Biggest weakness: "Special teams. The Browns have tried to address their special teams woes. In 2022, they drafted kicker Cade York in the fourth round and signed Pro Bowl returner Jakeem Grant Sr. They even switched special teams coaches. But York's struggles prompted the Browns to cut him last week and trade for kicker Dustin Hopkins. Grant suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason for a second straight year. As a result, special teams continue to be a major question mark." – via ESPN’s Jake Trotter

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