Playoff picture: AFC North, part two
The team receiving the most hype around the NFL this year is the Browns, as shocking as that is. Just two seasons ago they didn’t even win a single game, now many media pundits have them pegged as Super Bowl contenders.
Bet on the Browns with caution. Their offensive line is a concern, as is their lack of linebacker depth. Don’t forget that this defense was 31st in total rush defense last year. The success or failure of the Browns’ season will live or die with rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens.
As Anthony Lynn can attest, the adjustment from position coach/coordinator to head coach can be a difficult one. In Lynn’s rookie season the team started 0-4 and missed the playoffs. Even before the trade for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns had a lot of big personalities on the roster. How Kitchens manages that throughout the season remains to be seen.
The Browns could certainly make the playoffs, but winning the division still seems like an achievement that they are still a year away from.
The Steelers are my pick to win this division. The Steelers, for once, are the least noisy team in the division. Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown are gone, but James Conner and Juju Smith-Schuster seem poised to take them into the next era of Steeler football.
They still have a top-five offensive line in the league that will pave the way to the Steelers having a top offensive unit in the league, yet again. There may not have been a better draft pick in the league than that of Devin Bush. The rookie out of Michigan will bring an element of athleticism that they have severely missed without Ryan Shazier.
Add in Bush to a very good Steeler defense that produced over 50 sacks last season and they should be a very stout defense. Their first six games are no cake walk as they open in Foxborough, then have two west coast trips to play the Chargers and 49ers. After they visit Los Angeles though, they should be able to cruise into the playoffs.