Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
How they stand:
I think that the Steelers are still the best team in the AFC North. Their defensive struggles can be attributed to growing pains, and should lessen as the season goes on. Even if they don’t, the Steelers’ offense is just about tops in the league. Even without three stars, the Steelers had the second highest yardage totals in the first week of the season. The fact remains that they need to convert in the redzone.
I put the Bengals second because they have a head start and had the Ravens’ number in 2014. The Bengals probably had the least amount of turnover of any team in the North. They also get Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert back on offense, and maybe a returning Michael Johnson can recreate his pre 2014 success with his old team. They also added A.J. Hawk on defense.
The Ravens are a close third. It seems that, once again, we won’t know which team will show up until they play Sunday. Losing Suggs could have a long term effect and Steve Smith Jr.’s limited involvement on Sunday is not a good sign, especially after losing Torrey Smith in free agency.
Haloti Ngata also left in free agency, and his replacement, Timmy Jernigan, didn’t play on Sunday due to injury. The Ravens need Jernigan to play and to stay healthy in 2015, he’s one of a few new defensive stars.
The Browns look like they’re content being the Browns again in 2015. While the Jets have some elite players, they aren’t world beaters–especially on offense. Outside of a 54 yard bomb to Travis Benjamin, the Browns didn’t look like a competitor.
While it’s too early to tell, the sky isn’t falling in Pittsburgh after their first loss. We’re also not ready to crown the Bengals for beating up on the Raiders. The division will need to play itself out, but the Steelers are division champs until proven otherwise.