Baltimore Ravens -120
Pittsburgh Steelers +230
Cincinnati Bengals +330
Cleveland Browns +1500
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Baltimore Ravens: The rich keep getting richer. This could be the best chance the Ravens have had to win the Super Bowl in years. QB Joe Flacco has really emerged as a top notch signal caller in the NFL, and he has a new toy to play with on the outside in the form of WR Anquan Boldin. All of a sudden, for a team that seemed like it was badly short by a wide receiver, the combo of Boldin and WR Derrick Mason looks like the best in the division and one of the best in the entire league. RB Ray Rice had a tremendous season, breaking the 1,000 yard barrier with ease. TE Todd Heap is now backed up by TE Dennis Pitta and TE Ed Dickson. Add to the mix a defense that is annually one of the most feared, and the recipe is right for the Ravens to be heading back to the postseason. DT Haloti Ngata has a new friend in the form of DT Terrence Cody, while the rest of the ‘D’ remains intact from a great year in ’09.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are going to have a huge problem for the first month of the season when they have to figure out how to play without QB Ben Roethlisberger. He was one of two Steelers suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell in the offseason, while the other, WR Santonio Holmes, was traded to the New York Jets before the hammer was laid down. The defense is going to be boosted by the return of SS Troy Polamalu, but Pittsburgh had better hope that he is a tremendous difference maker. The team wasn’t fantastic on defense last year, and though Polamalu is a great player, he probably isn’t going to be able to fix all of the team’s problems. HC Mike Tomlin could become the first Pittsburgh coach to be on the hot seat in decades.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals shocked the world last season when they won the AFC North over both the Ravens and Steelers. Still, the way the season ended with two horrifying losses in a row to the New York Jets, one has to wonder whether HC Marvin Lewis is truly safe or not. He won’t be playing a third place schedule anymore, and his team still has a ton of offensive questions. QB Carson Palmer just barely threw for 3,000 yards, which is a huge drop off for a man that is used to throwing for 4,000+. The addition of WR Antonio Bryant should help, but when push comes to shove, the passing attack is going to be on Palmer’s right arm. His rushing attack might get crippled if Comeback Player of the Year RB Cedric Benson is suspended for his off the field issues once again this offseason.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns are on the longest winning streak in the league at four games. It seems as though the influence of GM Mike Holmgren really has everyone in Cleveland on notice that their jobs could be on the line. The only sweeping change that the Browns made was right at the top with the quarterback position. The question was whether or it was going to be Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson calling the shots. The answer: Neither. Both were excommunicated from Cleveland and were replaced by Seneca Wallace, Jake Delhomme, and rookie Colt McCoy. The Browns defense still needs a ton of work, but help was clearly on Holmgren’s mind when he drafted Florida DB Joe Haden to join the secondary. This won’t be the year that miracles are worked in Cleveland, but Holmgren has his team going in the right direction.