According to Football Outsiders
Football Outsiders released their win/loss projection in an exclusive for ESPN Insider for the AFC North and Ravens fans won’t be very thrilled with their analysis. After narrowly missing out on the AFC North title in 2016 the Ravens will drop to third in the division according to their prediction.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 13-3 (13.1 mean wins; SOS: 27)
2. Cincinnati Bengals: 9-7 (8.8 mean wins; SOS: 26)
3. Baltimore Ravens: 8-8 (7.8 mean wins; SOS: 19)
4. Cleveland Browns: 5-11 (5.4 mean wins; SOS: 11)
“Pittsburgh and New England come out far ahead of the rest of the league in our forecast, with the Steelers powered by the best offensive projection in the league. The Steelers have exceptional offensive line continuity, as all five starting linemen have been in Pittsburgh for at least four seasons. Pittsburgh might have the best running back and the best wide receiver in the league, and we can expect some rebound from Ben Roethlisberger after an inconsistent 2016 season. We also expect Cincinnati to bounce back on both sides of the ball, and the Bengals get eight home games again after losing one to London in 2016.”
“Baltimore has brought in talent on defense in free agency, but the Ravens have lost a lot, as well, with the trade of Timmy Jernigan and the surprising retirement of Zachary Orr. Cleveland continues to rebuild, but at least the defense should be better with a full season from Jamie Collins and the return of Desmond Bryant and Nate Orchard from injury.”
It sure seems as if the outsiders are being generous to everyone in the AFC North outside of Baltimore. Projecting the Steelers to finish 13-3 is aggressive. They are the best team in the division but the Steelers haven’t won more than 11 games since 2011 and haven’t won 13 or more games since 2004 when they finished 15-1. They will likely get Martavis Bryant back which will be a boost and they lost Lawrence Timmons in free agency but otherwise will be fielding a similar to to the one they did last year. Another 11-5 record seems about right.
What have the Bengals done to improve so much that Football Outsiders expect them to win three more games? They lost two of their best offensive linemen, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler to free agency and have done nothing to give Andy Dalton anymore targets outside of A.J. Green and the often injured Tyler Eifert. The loss of Marvin Jones and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson hurt them a lot in 2016 and it will continue to this season.
Now to the Ravens…this looks like the only one that the Football Outsiders got about right. Ozzie Newsome has done a lot to improve the defensive side of the ball but the Ravens still have holes there. Can the Ravens count on Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon to complement Suggs as a pass rusher. Speaking of Suggs he’s shown signs of slowing down. It’s a good thing the Ravens have an improved secondary because opposing quarterbacks could have ample time in the pocket versus them in 2017. On offense they’ve done literally nothing outside of adding Danny Woodhead. When adding a 32 year old running back coming off of a torn ACL is your biggest move it’s safe to say you were fairly quiet in free agency. Who’s starting at center and right tackle? Who will move the chains and make tough catches on third down with Steve Smith gone? The Ravens have more question than answers on offense. I’m not sure they’ll finish third but that’s more of a reflection of the rest of their division outside of the Steelers.