Who will win the AFC North in 2017?
The Talk of Fame Network begins our eight-part series on the eight NFL divisions this week, starting with the AFC North. We interviewed Browns' coach Hue Jackson and former Bengals' quarterback Ken Anderson on this week’s show and devoted a segment to discussing and debating the division. So now we turn the floor over to you, our faithful listeners and readers – who’s going to win the AFC North in 2017? It’s your call on this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll:
Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens finished 8-8 last season with the NFL’s 17th ranked offense and seventh-ranked defense. This is a franchise that believes defense wins championships, so GM Ozzie Newsome was busy overhauling his defense this offseason. The Ravens used their first four draft picks on defense, selecting cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first round, edge rusher Tyus Bowser in the second and ends Chris Wormley and Tim Williams in the third. Newsome also signed safety Tony Jefferson in free agency away from the Cardinals and cornerback Brandon Carr away from the Cowboys.
Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals finished 6-9-1 last season with the NFL’s 13th-ranked offense and 17th-ranked defense. Cincinnati took a hit on offense in free agency, losing guard Kevin Zeitler to the Browns and tackle Andrew Whitworth to the Rams. But the Bengals spent the draft collecting offensive playmakers and pass rushers. Cincinnati used its first pick on the fastest player in the draft, wide receiver John Ross, and its second pick on arguably the most talented runner in the draft, Joe Mixon. He slid out of the first round because of character concerns. The Bengals then used a third- and fourth-round pick on elite college pass rushers, Jordan Willis of Kansas State in the third and Carl Lawson of Auburn in the fourth.
Cleveland Browns. The Browns were the worst team in the NFL last season, finishing 1-15. They ranked 30th in the NFL in offense and 31st in defense. No NFL team was busier this offseason than the Browns – and no team needed the roster repairs more. The Browns spent $109.25 million in offensive upgrades in free agency, signing guard Kevin Zeitler, wide receiver Kenny Britt and center J.C. Tretter. Then they invested three first-round draft picks on walk-in starters: Pass rusher Myles Garrett, safety Jabrill Peppers and tight end David Njoku. But the wild card was second-round pick DeShone Kizer. If he’s the answer to the team’s quarterbacking woes, the rebuilding process will be accelerated.
Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are the defending AFC North champs, having posted an 11-5 record and finishing seventh in the NFL in offense and 12th in defense. Pittsburgh lost starting linebacker Lawrence Timmons to Miami in free agency. But the Steelers offset his loss by selecting Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt in the first round. Second-rounder JuJu Smith-Schuster gives Ben Roethlisberger another set of hands on the flank. Smith-Schuster arrives in Pittsburgh following an 89-catch, 1,454-yard, 10-touchdown season at Southern Cal. Third-round CB Cameron Sutton gives the Steelers coverage depth and fourth-round James Conner a power running back.