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Top Questions Around AFC North


The Ravens have won the AFC North the past two years.

But every offseason brings a lot of change, and the AFC North is no different.

A couple weeks away from training camp, here are some of the top questions in the division:

Who is the Ravens' top contender?The main rivalry in the AFC North is the Ravens and Steelers – possibly the best in the NFL. But if anybody is going to challenge Baltimore for the division lead, it may be the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have made the playoffs each of the past two years and beat out Pittsburgh last season. While Pittsburgh has undergone a lot of change this offseason, Cincinnati has remained largely the same and added more offensive weapons. Cincinnati last won the division in 2010.

Are the Bengals for real?The big question last year was whether Cincinnati could repeat as a playoff team. The Bengals accomplished that feat. Now Cincinnati is getting a lot of buzz this offseason because of its high-pressure defense, led by Pro Bowler Geno Atkins, and it added new weapons in first-round tight end Tyler Eifert and second-round running back Giovani Bernard. Cincinnati has fallen in the first round of the playoffs the past two years and is looking to make a run this season.

Will Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton take the next step?The fate of the Bengals may lay on quarterback Andy Dalton's shoulders. Entering his third season, Dalton has been a solid signal caller thus far. He threw for 3,669 yards and tossed 27 touchdowns to 16 interceptions last year. If he takes another step forward this season, the Bengals offense, littered with offensive weapons (none more talented than wide receiver A.J. Green), could be potent.

Can quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stay healthy?
Pittsburgh was rolling last year until quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got hurt – again. They lost their next two games, including at home against Baltimore. Then once Roethlisberger returned, he struggled with turnovers and the Steelers dropped three of their final four contests to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. Roethlisberger hasn't played all 16 games since 2008.

Is the Steelers defense too old?Pittsburgh shed two of its aging defensive veterans in nose tackle Casey Hampton and outside linebacker James Harrison this offseason. But the Steelers still have the oldest defense in the NFL. Safety Troy Polamalu, 32, has struggled to stay healthy, and there are other aging vets such as linebacker Larry Foote (32), safety Ryan Clark(33)and cornerback Ike Taylor (33), and defensive end Brett Keisel (34). While Pittsburgh has had a youth movement on offense, it's hanging on to many defensive veterans.

Will new coaches bring big change in Cleveland?The Browns continue to turn over their coaching staff. Now up is Head Coach Rob Chudzinski, the former offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. He brought in former San Diego Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner to inject big plays into the offense. The defense is now headed by Ray Horton, the former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator. Turner has reportedly been quite fiery in practice and Horton is drawing rave reviews from his defensive players.

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