We seem to be getting somewhere now. The AFC West preview didn’t quite get there, but the AFC East and AFC South ones have kind of locked on with categories. For this division, I’m gonna go even more old-school.
1) Baltimore Ravens (Humphrey Bogart) – Never the most attractive of the classic actors, but always able to get the job done with a late start. Bogart had more on-screen arrogance in his parts than Ravens coach Brian Billick has in real life, and this year, he might be able to justify it. The defense is probably reeling from losing Adalius Thomas in free agency, but trading for Willis McGahee from the Bills, still in his prime, gives Steve McNair the assistance he didn’t necessarily have last year, and yet the Ravens were still able to take the division (the middling records of the rest of the conference helped.)
2) Pittsburgh Steelers (Cary Grant) – You always knew what you were getting out of Cary Grant on screen, but he could always surprise you. The Steelers are the same way — rushing is the backbone of the offense, and Willie Parker’s a stud because of it. However, with Ben Roethlisberger back, and hopefully healthy, he’s going to have to step up for new coach Mike Tomlin, who’s throwing that new wrinkle in.
3) Cincinnati Bengals (John Wayne) – Wayne was always talented at the roles best suited to him in Westerns and war flicks, much like the Bengals only seem to do well on the offensive end of the ball, despite Marvin Lewis’ background as a defensive coordinator prior to becoming the Cincy head coach. While I doubt Carson Palmer and company will miss a beat despite the loss of Chris Henry, the secondary is even more of a shambles than last year, and there’s no proof of a pass rush there.
4) Cleveland Browns (Jerry Lewis) – A gifted talent at one point, but eventually, fans started laughing at him rather than with him, and that may be close to the relationship the Browns have with the NFL and even the franchise’s own tortured fan base. Expect Brady Quinn to be starting after the bye week, and they’ve got the right idea by drafting Joe Thomas, but there aren’t enough experienced parts on offense to be any higher than the cellar in this division. Romeo Crennel will be looking for work after the season.