The AFC North is one of the easiest conferences in the NFL to define. There are two teams that are in the thick of the playoff hunt (Pittsburgh and Baltimore) and two teams that have shown some promise but will have to go on an historic run in order to make the playoffs (Cleveland and Cincinnati).
Baltimore Ravens Midseason Report (5-2)
The Ravens were the trendy choice to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLV. Although Baltimore hasn’t exactly played like a runaway favorite, they have shown glimpses of why many people think they are still one of the Top 3 teams in the NFL. The biggest problem for the Ravens through the first seven games of the season has been consistency. When the defense is playing well, Joe Flacco and the offense haven’t been able to move the football. When the offense is playing well, the defense is letting the other team score and keep the game close. If Baltimore’s offense and defense are ever able to play well at the same time, the Ravens will be the team to beat in the AFC. There’s no guarantee that’s going to happen this season, however.
Total Offense: 340.3 yards/game (14th)
Total Defense: 313.9 yards/game allowed (10th)
Baltimore Ravens Midseason Grade: B+
Pittsburgh Steelers Midseason Report (5-2)
The Steelers started out the season playing extremely well, going 3-1 while starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended. Since his return, the Steelers are 2-1, but actually haven’t looked as dominant as they did the first four weeks of the season. Is the defense playing with less intensity now that Roethlisberger is back leading the offense? Or are the Steelers simply going through temporary growing pains as Roethlisberger gets re-acquainted with the offense? Pittsburgh still looks like one of the better teams in the AFC, but they aren’t unbeatable.
Total Offense: 297.6 yards/game (27th)
Total Defense: 302.0 yards/game allowed (5th)
Pittsburgh Steelers Midseason Grade: B+
Cleveland Browns Midseason Report (2-5)
Colt McCoy is the future of the Cleveland Browns. His stats haven’t looked great since taking over for the injured Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, but McCoy has done a great job running the Browns’ offense and isn’t making mistakes. The Browns only have one loss on the season by more than ten points, and could easily be 3-4 or even 4-3 if they catch a couple of breaks.
As long as Cleveland sticks to their gameplan and decides to give McCoy some leeway going forward, they should be able to make some major strides forward. If the Browns decide to juggle Delhomme, Wallace and McCoy (when all three are healthy), the Browns will probably be stuck losing close games for the rest of the season.
Total Offense: 292.0 yards/game (28th)
Total Defense: 355.4 yards/game allowed (22nd)
Cleveland Browns Midseason Grade: C
Cincinnati Bengals Midseason Report (2-5)
The defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals have looked awful so far in 2010. Carson Palmer no longer looks a Pro Bowl quarterback, wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens haven’t asserted themselves as much as in years past, and the Bengals’ defense is 24th in the league in scoring defense, giving up an average of 23.3 points per game. The Bengals have talent on their roster, but haven’t been able to utilize it fully.
Total Offense: 355.4 yards/game (11th)
Total Defense: 342.0 yards/game allowed (19th)
Cincinnati Bengals Midseason Grade: D+
AFC North 2010 Midseason Predictions
Both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have a shot at going 11-5 or 12-4 and winning this division. Considering Baltimore’s head-to-head win against the Steelers, the Ravens probably have a better shot at winning the division, but both teams will make the playoffs. The Browns and Bengals, meanwhile, will both finish around 5-11 and have to make some major changes if they want to compete against the heavyweights in the AFC.
All stats and standings from espn.com
All records and statistics are accurate through Week 8 of the 2010 NFL Season