The Ravens went 11-5 last season and made the playoffs. At times they looked like a team that could be on the outside looking in. But in the end, the former MVP and Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson, rose to the challenge. The Ravens returned to the playoffs. Since Jackson became a starter, the Ravens have had the best regular-season record besides the Chiefs and Packers. Baltimore beat the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round 20-13, but the game and season relied heavily on Lamar Jackson running. The Ravens look to have a more balanced offense. Baltimore had 166 rushing 1st downs and 142 passing 1st downs. Over the last years, the Ravens have tried to open up the passing game more. They selected WR Rashod Bateman with their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. They also added free agent WR Sammy Watkins, who will line up opposite Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. The foundation of defense is always there. They were a top 10 defense allowing a 35% conversion rate.
At every position, the Browns; are loaded. The defense is top-notch, and they have the best RB duo in the league in Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. The duo helped Cleveland average 148 rush yards ppg and have 600 more yards than opponents. QB Baker Mayfield dropped his interceptions from 21 in 2019 to just eight last season, and he has a sure-handed target in WR Jarvis Landry. But Cleveland still had their faults. The Browns; were averaged 25 points a game while giving up 26 points per. The Browns are hoping that WR Odell Beckham Jr returning from injury can put added pressure on defenses. While Baker may have spread the ball more evenly during that time, OBJ is still one of the best wide receivers in the league when healthy. They are bona fide playoff contenders.
Ben Roethlisberger took a pay cut to return for one last Super Bowl run. Pittsburgh had a hot start last year, with an 11-game winning streak, before the season downturn. The offense couldn’t place more burden on the defense. The Steelers culture has prided itself on defense and the run game. Last season, the defense spearheaded Pittsburgh’s initial 11-0 run to start the season. However, the Steelers finished last season with a meager 84.4 rushing yards per game, which was the third straight season Pittsburgh had a bottom-five rushing offense. The team hasn’t had a number one running back since Le’veon Bell. They upgraded with the selection of Alabama’s elite running back Najee Harris in the draft. Bud Dupree leaving for Tennessee dealt a blow to the defense but they bolstered their pass defense in the draft and free agency. Steelers had 18 interceptions with an improved defense. Pittsburgh is in a rebuild as Roethlisberger is near. They will fight for the last playoff spot.
The future is bright but the team is still in a complete rebuild. Number one overall pick Joe Burrow threw for 2,688 passing yards, with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in 11 games. After tearing his ACL and MCL injury, the team became a non-factor. They upgraded in the draft. In the first round, the selection was wide receiver from LSU, Ja’Marr Chase. Chase will replace A.J. Green as the #1 pass catcher for the team. Cincinnati will need to improve their offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback. They selected tackle Jackson Carman and signed tackle Riley Reiff as well to speed up the process. On defense, the team gave up 26 points per game. A bright spot is that the defense had more turnovers than the offense. Cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie were signed to improve the back end. On the defensive line, Trey Hendrickson and DT Larry Ogunjobi were added to solidify the defensive line. The Bengals have talented skilled players and aren’t going to be much fun for any opposing defense to face, but still will finish last in the AFC North.