1) Pittsburgh Steelers – It’s Big Ben’s team and the offensive line is a bit thin right now, although getting ridd of the supposedly malcontent Alan Faneca may be addition by subtraction. Concerns have to do with the secondary outside of Troy Polamalu, but in a hard-fought division, the Steelers should still be the class of it. Adding Limas Sweed and Rashard Mendenhall in the draft to contribute to the offense are solid moves and I need a reason not to say they’ll win this division. Last year’s loss to Jacksonville in the playoffs is concerning, but that’s a first season under Mike Tomlin. They’ll learn from this.
2) Cleveland Browns* – There’s a major gamble here: trading for defensive line help for run stuffing by giving away a pretty good corner in Leigh Bodden to the Lions. Plus, they didn’t look all that impressive in the last pre-season game, and return stud Joshua Cribbs is hurt. However, that is pre-season, and I’m thinking getting Donte’ Stallworth for the receiving corps was a good move to go with Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. Like them as a Wild Card pick if Derek Anderson’s concussion doesn’t lead to a prolonged QB controversy with Brady Quinn.
3) Cincinnati Bengals – Too many cooks in the kitchen in the front office that all have or have had the last name Brown (or are married into the family) on personnel matters; Marvin Lewis is in a no-win situation. The team drafted a great college linebacker in Keith Rivers from USC, but one player can’t fix what has been lousy defense — plus, they’ve had to dig into the depths and re-sign Chris Henry because of the nicks given to both Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh. In fantasy purposes, Carson Palmer is still probably a good pick, but this team’s defense will kep it at .500 again unless Lewis has found the old motivational magic that he had as Baltimore’s D-coordinator.
4) Baltimore Ravens – I really want Troy Smith to succeed and be a starting quarterback, but I don’t see the team having a very long leash for him because they’re paying Joe Flacco first-rounder money and will probably tolerate going through growing pains by inserting him into the line-up as soon as possible. (A rant about how I-AA players are getting more love and run than guys who win games and come one short of a national chip is probably later.) Rookie head coach, probably a rookie QB midway through, and an aging defense that is a far cry from the franchise’s Super Bowl winning season. Ray Rice will be worth looking at if Willis McGahee keeps having injury issues, but this is going to get worse before it gets better.