(Photo Credit: Justin K. Allen / Getty Images)
In 2020, the Pittsburgh Steelers won their first eleven games, en route to a 12-4 overall record and the AFC North Championship. From a team perspective, the accomplishment was bittersweet. They lost five out of the last six regular-season games and entered the playoffs as the third seed. Both the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens finished the regular season at 10-6. The Ravens, who won their last five regular-season games, and the Browns, who won six of the last eight games, entered the playoffs on a high note. The Ravens came into the playoffs as a five seed, while the Browns were a six seed.
In the Wild Card round, both the Ravens and Browns went on the road to face the Titans and Steelers respectively. The Ravens beat the Titans 20-13, while the Browns defeated the Steelers 48-37. Both the Ravens and Browns went on to lose in the divisional playoffs to end their season. The Chiefs overcame the Browns 22-17, while the listless Ravens’ offense lost to the Bills 17-3.
As one can tell, the AFC North was extremely competitive in 2020. After losing Joe Burrow in week ten, the Bengals recorded a 4-11-1 record. The question that now faces both fantasy owners and football pundits alike, is what does the 2021 AFC North now look like?
There are many questions that are currently unanswered. These questions include: 1) Does Ben Roethlisberger have enough gas left in the tank to reverse last year’s poor finish and keep the Steelers atop the division?; 2) Does the addition of Sammy Watkins (free agency) and Rashod Bateman( first round of NFL draft) add enough talent to the wide receiving corps to dethrone the Steelers?; 3) Did the Browns’ additions on the defensive side of the ball properly complement the remaining talent on offense?; and 4) Will Burrow’s recovery from offseason knee surgery allow him to be fully ready for week one?
The crew here at the Cut has been working very diligently on creating projections and will be releasing those for public viewing in the near future. As mentioned above, there are tons of questions to be answered here in the AFC North, as well as across the NFL. As a team, we are extremely excited to be working on previews for all 32 teams. This article serves as my introduction to a four-part series of team previews for the AFC North.
As part of each preview, I will take a quick peek back at last years’ positives and negatives. In addition, I will dive into free agency and the draft to see how these shortcomings were addressed. Finally, I will offer my best crystal ball view into the future to see which team we most like to win the division. Please keep in mind that all of my previews will be from a fantasy perspective, but I will list the final projected team record as well.
(Cover Photo Credit: NFL & Couch Guy Sports / Yahoo Sports)