1. Pittsburgh Steelers
From top to bottom this is one of the best teams that Mike Tomlin has ever had in Pittsburgh.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
If Andy Dalton can stay healthy for the playoffs, maybe they can make some noise in January.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Keeping key players healthy (namely their QB Joe Flacco) will determine their success this year.
4. Cleveland Browns
With the Cavaliers bringing the city a championship, the Browns have a shining example to follow.
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin
Key Position: Running Back
Le’Veon Bell can be considered one of the best running backs in the league. The biggest problem is that he doesn’t stay on the field enough. Last year he had a knee injury that ended his season. He’ll be out the first three games this year due to suspension. DeAngelo Williams had a resurgent season filling in and should spell Le’Veon while he’s out.
Key Acquisitions: T Ryan Harris (Denver Broncos), TE Ladarius Green (San Diego Chargers)
Key Rookies: CB Artie Burns, DB Sean Davis, DT Javon Hargrave
Head Coach: Marvin Lewis
Key Position: Defense
Besides their penchant for making boneheaded plays, the Bengals defense is among the best in the league. Their front seven is adept at stuffing the run, but their secondary has been prone to giving up the big pass play. If they want to be Super Bowl contenders, they’ll need to fix that asap.
Key Acquisitions: LB Karlos Dansby (Cleveland Browns), WR Brandon LaFell (New England Patriots)
Key Rookies: CB William Jackson III, WR Tyler Boyd
Head Coach: John Harbaugh
Key Position: Offensive Line
If you can’t protect your quarterback you won’t have a successful season. Even though the Ravens only gave up 24 sacks last season, QB Joe Flacco went down with a season ending knee injury and thus their season was doomed. They couldn’t get anything going with the running game and that will be priority number one this year.
Key Acquisitions: WR Mike Wallace (Minnesota Vikings), S Eric Weddle (San Diego Chargers), TE Benjamin Watson (New Orleans Saints)
Key Rookies: T Ronnie Stanley, DE/LB Kamalei Correa
Head Coach: Hue Jackson (Cincinnati Bengals)
Key Position: Everything
Once again they will have a new starting quarterback in RG3, a few new faces in the receiving corp and a somewhat revamped defense. This will be another painful year for the Browns, but they can’t get any worse than they’ve been in the last five years (23-57).
Key Acquisitions: LB Demario Davis (New York Jets), QB Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins), S Rahim Moore (Houston Texans)
Key Rookies: WR Corey Coleman, DE/LB Emmanuel Ogbah, DE Carl Nassib, T Shon Coleman