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Old 02-14-2008, 09:19 PM   #1
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Default Fox Sports AFC North Team needs

Pittsburgh (10-7)
Looking back: After a 9-3 start, Mike Tomlin's first season as Pittsburgh's head coach fell apart. The Steelers dropped four of their final five games, including a 31-29 home playoff loss to Jacksonville. Injuries played a key role in Pittsburgh's demise, but Tomlin's troops also lost four road games to non-playoff teams. That inconsistency must stop if Tomlin is to match the success of predecessor Bill Cowher.

Biggest need area: If you ask Ben Roethlisberger, it's adding a taller wide receiver to a smallish unit. Roethlisberger, though, needs better protection after being sacked more times (47) than any other quarterback besides Detroit's Jon Kitna (51). Left tackle Marvel Smith is entering the final year of his contract, The Steelers may want to strongly consider selecting the eight-year veteran's heir apparent early in April's draft.

Player/coach to watch: Left guard Alan Faneca. Keeping with their tendency to not invest heavily in older players, Faneca's magnificent 10-year run with the Steelers is about to end. Coming off his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl season, Faneca will command top dollar in free agency and leave a massive hole that Pittsburgh could struggle to fill.

Projected cap space: $13.5 million. The Steelers don't have the same cap problems that maligned the team in recent years but don't expect wild spending either. The most likely scenario has Pittsburgh signing one big-ticket player and making some less-expensive additions in free agency. Pittsburgh's most positive development last season was Roethlisberger's continued emergence, especially at improvising under pressure. Those strides should help pave the way for a lucrative contract extension.

2008 outlook: Very good. Pittsburgh fielded the NFL's top-ranked defense but the unit never rebounded after being picked apart during a 34-13 December loss to New England. The return of two injured starters (safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Aaron Smith) and projected emergence of second-year linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley should help. With a few other tweaks and a successful comeback by running back Willie Parker, Pittsburgh could be contending for a Super Bowl once again.

Cleveland (10-6)

AFC North off-season outlookBengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
Looking back: During the preseason, the Browns had all the earmarks of a team that would finish in the AFC North basement. Instead, Cleveland far exceeded expectations and was in contention for a playoff spot until late December. The key to success was an offense that flourished under new coordinator Rod Chudzinski.

Biggest need area: Defensive line. Nose tackle Ted Washington (39 years old) and end Orpheus Roye (35) are reaching the end. The Browns haven't used a first-day draft pick on a defensive lineman since Gerard Warren in 2001. That's too long.

Player/coach to watch: Running back Jamal Lewis. After a disappointing 2006 campaign in Baltimore, Lewis signed a one-year contract with Cleveland hoping he could land a better deal down the road. Lewis did his part by rushing for 1,304 yards. But according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the Browns aren't willing to make more than a two-season investment, while Lewis wants a three-year commitment. San Diego's Michael Turner could be an intriguing free-agent target if talks with Lewis are unfruitful.

Projected cap space: $25.2 million. The Browns are always active in free agency and that shouldn't change. But Cleveland also has some internal issues to handle. Besides Lewis, tight end Kellen Winslow wants a revamped deal and quarterback Derek Anderson could draw interest elsewhere as a restricted free agent if the Browns can't reach agreement on a long-term extension.

2008 outlook: Good. Cleveland has plenty of offensive talent ? especially along the line ? but an aged defense needs upgrading for the Browns to reach the playoffs. Improving the pass rush should be a major priority.

Cincinnati (7-9)
Looking back: The 2007 Bengals had some of the same disturbing traits as other failed Cincinnati teams before coach Marvin Lewis' arrival in 2003. Cincinnati got off to another lousy start (2-6) and had a talented-but-disgruntled player (wide receiver Chad Johnson) become a distraction. The Bengals also fielded the NFL's 27th-ranked defense, which cost coordinator Chuck Bresnahan his job.

Biggest need area: The front seven. Injuries at linebacker forced the Bengals to juggle personnel, including the shift of pass-rushing end Robert Geathers. Cincinnati would get a huge boost if linebackers Odell Thurman (suspension) and David Pollack (neck injury) can return after missing last season. The Bengals may use the franchise tag on end Justin Smith for a second consecutive season. Regardless, adding a big-bodied nose tackle and more line depth are musts.

Player/coach to watch: Johnson. Johnson's recent attempts to talk his way out of Cincinnati would be successful if the Bengals weren't forced to take an $8.03 million salary cap hit by trading him. Johnson and the Bengals have five-plus months to straighten out their issues before the start of training camp. Otherwise, things could get even more interesting than Johnson's recent rants about his situation.

Projected cap space: $26.6 million. Bengals owner/general manager Mike Brown never splurges in free agency, so expect Cincinnati to focus on trying to re-sign its own players or seek lower-cost replacements. Right tackle Stacy Andrews and safety Madieu Williams would be among the most valued players at their respective positions if able to hit the market. The Bengals also have four linebackers (Caleb Miller, Landon Johnson, Dhani Jones and Lemar Marshall) set to become UFAs. Smith would chew up $10.4 million if franchised again.

2008 outlook: Fair. Lewis' achievements as a defensive specialist led to his Bengals hiring, but Cincinnati's units have ranked 20th or worse in four of his five seasons. While showing promise under Lewis two seasons ago, the Bengals still haven't won a playoff game since 1990. Whether Lewis can recapture the momentum he had then could determine whether he returns to Cincinnati in 2009.

Baltimore (5-11)
Looking back: Just one year after a 13-3 campaign, the Brian Billick era came to an end after nine seasons. Billick's offense remained shoddy and he was being tuned out on a team carried by an aging defense.

Biggest need area: Cornerback. When the Ravens couldn't pressure opposing quarterbacks, the secondary was exposed. Starting cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAllister battled injuries and illness throughout 2007. Both are in their 30s and Baltimore has no promising replacements waiting in the wings.

Player/coach to watch: Cam Cameron. Baltimore's new offensive coordinator comes from one quarterback mess (Miami) to another. Steve McNair, who turns 35 on Thursday, missed 10 games last year and his body is battered after 13 NFL seasons. Kyle Boller continues to disappoint and Troy Smith is a project. Because of contractual commitments to McNair and Boller, the Ravens appear willing to have those two compete for a starting spot in training camp. The quarterback position would be hurt even more if future Hall of Fame left tackle Jon Ogden retired.

Projected cap space: $3.5 million, according to the team's Web site. The Ravens will need to clear more space soon to use an $8.1 million franchise tag on linebacker Terrell Suggs and place a high tender offer on standout young guard Jason Brown, a restricted free agent. Seven of the nine players with Baltimore's largest cap numbers are at least 30 years of age.

2008 outlook: Fair. The ability to keep defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will help John Harbaugh's transition as Baltimore's new head coach. With a little more offensive firepower, the Ravens have enough talent to compete for a wild-card spot.

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Old 02-14-2008, 09:22 PM   #2
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Default Re: Fox Sports AFC North Team needs

they left out that we get ryan clark back too.
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Old 02-14-2008, 09:33 PM   #3
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Default Re: Fox Sports AFC North Team needs

Originally Posted by jjpro11 View Post
they left out that we get ryan clark back too.
Something that also screwed them last year.

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Old 02-14-2008, 11:23 PM   #4
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Default Re: Fox Sports AFC North Team needs

Originally Posted by jjpro11 View Post
they left out that we get ryan clark back too.
thats because we cant take that for granted.

chris simms didnt exactly help out the bucs a year after having his spleen removed.
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