FinFlam Sports 2021 AFC North Predictions:
Baltimore Ravens 12-5
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens look to take the next step in the NFL Playoffs as Lamar Jackson finally won his first playoff game on the road against a competitive Tennessee Titans team. Although, the Ravens lost in the divisional round to the Buffalo Bills the next week.
The 2021 season is vital to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Jackson will only have one more year left on his contract after this year, which means that the Ravens will most likely offer the former MVP an extension in the next six to eight months.
A deep playoff run or Super Bowl appearance could potential make Lamar Jackson the highest paid (yearly average of contract) quarterback in the NFL.
This offseason, Baltimore added Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman, to bolster their receiving core. Bateman may miss time with a groin injury to start the season and due to Sammy Watkins durability issues in recent years, you don’t know how it may play out for him either.
The Ravens and Browns are the two favorites in the AFC North. Baltimore is the more accomplished team with a more accomplished quarterback, which is why they are my favorites to win this division.
This is a make or break year for the Baltimore Ravens, and they need to prove that they belong in the same conversation with teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. This means getting to the playoffs and beating one of these teams.
Cleveland Browns 11-6
Cleveland enters the 2021 season with Super Bowl expectations. The Browns are dealing with tangible success for the first time and to prove themselves week one, in Kansas City, against the Chiefs. Remember, not even a year ago, the Chiefs are same team that eliminated them from the playoffs, even though an injury removed Patrick Mahomes from the game.
Cleveland might have the most pressure of any team in the NFL as they look build on a successful 2020 season. The Browns are expected to be a contender, all while dealing with their first taste of success. The Browns season will be defined by three things:
- Making the playoffs
- Winning the Division
- Getting to the AFC Championship Game
The Cleveland Browns and their fans believe 2021 could be a magical season, but even without a Super Bowl, the Browns have an opportunity to cement their status as a premier team, in 2021.
Cincinnati Bengals 9-8
The Bengals season comes down to their ability to protect Joe Burrow and get stops on defense. Cincinnati acquired premier talent on offense at the expense of their offensive line. The Bengals may have the best young trio of wide receivers in the NFL. Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Ja’Marr Chase could make Cincinnati as formidable as any offense in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals have all the ingredients to have a break out season, except for a serviceable offensive line. Joe Burrow is also one of our dark-horse MVP candidates.
The Bengals have two things to accomplish this season:
- Protect Joe Burrow
- Make a decision on Zac Taylor as coach
The Bengals are a team that haven’t been given enough attention and could be a surprise playoff team, in 2021.
Pittsburgh Steelers 5-12
The Pittsburgh Steelers have an aging quarterback and a bad offensive line, this season could head south for the Steelers fast. The Steelers started 2020 11-0 and finished the season 12-4. Pittsburgh lost their wild card game to the Cleveland Browns, meaning they lost 5 of their last 6 games.
The Steelers have a good defense and are difficult to get a feel for, they could be a 5 win team or a 9 win team. The main problem is that you can’t trust their QB or OL. I believe that the other teams in the AFC North have passed them and that this year we’ll see a changing of the guard, in the AFC North.
The Steelers may look back on this season and wished they had traded up for one of the quarterbacks, instead of drafting a running back.
Division Winner: Baltimore Ravens
Playoff Teams: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals