1. Cincinnati Bengals
This is a new era in which they shall not be referred to as the ‘Bungals’.
2. Baltimore Ravens
Health and whether QB Lamar Jackson can return to his MVP form of 2019 will determine their success.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’ll be interesting to see if Pittsburgh sneaks in and clinches a Wild Card spot this year.
4. Cleveland Browns
Not having newly acquired QB Deshaun Watson for the first 11 games will set them up for failure this season.
Head Coach: Zac Taylor
Key Position: Secondary
Let’s be honest, not many teams were able to cover the Los Angeles Rams receivers last season. Not only did the Bengals shore up the glaring holes on the offensive line, but they used their first two picks of the draft to add depth to the secondary. This franchise means business and wants another shot at the Super Bowl.
Key Acquisitions: OG Alex Cappa (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), OT La’el Collins (Dallas Cowboys), TE Hayden Hurst (Atlanta Falcons), C Ted Karras (New England Patriots)
Key Rookies: S Daxton Hill, CB Cam Taylor-Britt, DT Zachary Carter, OL Cordell Volson
Head Coach: John Harbaugh
Key Position: Defense
It’s to be expected that this unit will be healthier and much better than they were last season. The lone bright spot was that they were number one against the run, but dead last against the pass and 25th overall. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters both returning to form will be a big plus to the pass defense. As will the free agent signing of Marcus Williams and the drafting of Kyle Hamilton.
Key Acquisitions: RB Mike Davis (Atlanta Falcons), RB Kenyan Drake (Las Vegas Raiders), CB Kyle Fuller (Denver Broncos), OT Morgan Moses (NY Jets), DT Michael Pierce (Minnesota Vikings), S Marcus Williams (New Orleans Saints)
Key Rookies: S Kyle Hamilton, C Tyler Linderbaum, DT Travis Jones
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin
Key Position: Quarterback
It’s been almost 20 years since Pittsburgh had any concerns about the quarterback position. Now that Ben Roethlisberger has retired, they drafted his replacement in Kenny Pickett with their first pick. Mitch Trubisky was signed to provide a buffer to give Pickett time to get acclimated. Make no mistake this will be Pickett’s job sooner rather than later.
Key Acquisitions: OL Mason Cole (Minnesota Vikings), OL James Daniels (Chicago Bears), LB Myles Jack (Jacksonville Jaguars), DT Larry Ogunjobi (Cincinnati Bengals), QB Mitch Trubisky (Buffalo Bills)
Key Rookies: QB Kenny Pickett, WR George Pickens
Head Coach: Kevin Stefanski
Key Position: Quarterback
Cleveland jumped ship from Baker Mayfield and went after Deshaun Watson knowing that he was going to be suspended for an unknown amount of time. It will officially be the first 11 games of the season and before that was known, they signed Jacoby Brissett as an insurance policy. The Browns have to hope that the number four ranked rushing attack last season can duplicate that in the first 11 games.
Key Acquisitions: QB Jacoby Brissett (Miami Dolphins), DT Taven Bryan (Jacksonville Jaguars), WR Amari Cooper (Dallas Cowboys), C Ethan Pocic (Seattle Seahawks), QB Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)
Key Rookies: CB Martin Emerson, DE Alex Wright, WR David Bell, DT Perrion Winfrey, K Cade York, RB Jerome Ford