Put me in the minority … but I think the AFC North is going to be a joke of a division this year. The division that sent three to the playoffs last year? Is only going to send one this time. But it’s sending a powerhouse that (skipping ahead a couple posts) I predict will wind up with home field advantage throughout the playoffs …
(Please click picture below for full Excel schedule breakdown):
* Final Order of Finish:
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Cleveland Browns
* First Read: No surprises whatsoever. Yes, I read a couple big upsets in this division that wound up affecting other divisions … but at the end of the day, I don’t think the Bengals can repeat last year’s run, I think Pittsburgh is going to take a step back, and the Browns are atrocious.
* Biggest Game: Patriots at Ravens, week 3. Determined home field advantage throughout the AFC postseason, for whatever that’s worth.
* Seems wacky: nothing. No, really – if you asked any person with even a minimal knowledge of the sport to rank these four teams entering the season? This is exactly how they’d rank them.
* Division (Home) Uniform Rankings:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Cincinnati Bengals
Reason: you can flip Cleveland and Cincinnati, depending on how you view poop brown colored uniforms … but there’s no way the Steelers don’t rank at the top.
* Division MVP: Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens. To be fair, the MVP should be Joe Flacco … but he never gets the credit he’s due. Seriously, consider what Flacco has accomplished in four years – four playoff berths, he’s won at least one game every time he’s gotten there, and played in two AFC Title Games, coming within one of the most epic missed field goals of all time from reaching the Super Bowl eight months ago. (Here’s where I’d haul out the “even I’ve made a 30 yarder at the NFL experience” blast … but I’d have choked as badly as Billy Cundiff did from 28 in that spot, if I was in that, uum, spot.) Anyone who says Joe Flacco is not an “elite” or a “franchise” quarterback, needs to have a mental health evaluation conducted on them on the spot.
* Song from Mixology 2012 to Describe Each Team:
Baltimore Ravens: “Closer” by Ne-Yo. Is this the year they finally break through? They keep getting closer every damned season to the sport’s ultimate prize.
Pittsburgh Steelers: “Face Down” by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Have fun with Coach Asshat guys. I can think of 53 players and at least one hot-as-holy-hell 35 year old blogger who have November 12th circled, highlighted, and marked with pins you’d insert into a voodoo doll, anxiously anticipating our crack at you.
Cincinnati Bengals: “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. I actually sometimes wonder, as the ninth anniversary of drunken Bengals fan brawling with me approaches, if said drunken Bengals fan has even an ounce of appreciation for the fact that I refused to press charges against him for his assault and battery that day? Has he started with the man in the mirror? Has he decided to change his ways? I still think I did the right thing, to act like the whole thing never happened, but please, fellow readers, NFL fans – it is perfectly cool to verbally taunt the opposition. It is NEVER cool to cold cock the other team’s fan in the face because you don’t like that he applauded when his team scored. That is NEVER cool. Especially when it results in that poor dude who got cold-cocked (hey, that’s me!) having to drop $553 on a new pair of glasses because he’s blind as a bat without those or contacts. On second thought, I should have pressed charges … or at least sent him a bill.
Cleveland Browns: “Out of My Head” by Theory of a Deadman. If you ignore them, do they just go away? God I hope so. I’m sorry Cooksey, but your team SUCKS chica. SUCKS!
Bottom Line: I believe this is the Ravens last true shot at a championship, at least with this core of players, especially on defense. They will put themselves in prime position to pull it off.
Final Prediction: we’ll have our first sideline brawl since the end of the 1993 season, when Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride threw down on the Oilers sideline, at some point during the Chiefs / Steelers Monday nighter, as Big Ben and Coach Asshat exchange blows. Good times!