Asinine Football Analysis: AFC North Preview
Welcome back to our 2014 season preview of NFL teams that you love, hate to love, and love to hate. Asinine Analysis is here to give some fans hope and other fans a face mask penalty back into reality.
Our next targets: the teams of the AFC North, where lies one of the most painful rivalries in recent sports history.
Okay, so being a Browns fans is painful in general. But when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore and relabeled them the Ravens, the least the NFL could do was move the Browns to another division, or even another conference, when the team was resurrected. Could you imagine it? A Ravens vs. Browns Super Bowl? I know it’s asking a lot considering the Browns haven’t won a playoff game since 1994, but it could have happened. Someday.
Record: 8-8. Once again, the Super Bowl hangover claims another team as the Baltimore Ravens failed to make the playoffs the year after hoisting up the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Either that, or the Ravens gave Joe Flacco a few games in addition to his ginormous contract.
The Good: Every year, the Baltimore Ravens have an insane defense no matter what kind of roster turnover there is. Lose Ray Lewis? No big deal. Ed Reed leaves? We’ll manage. It’s as if coach John Harbaugh has a bag of magic fairy dust that turns every linebacker into Lawrence Taylor and every defensive back into Deion Sanders.
The Bad: If it’s not bad enough that Ray Rice forgot how to be a running back last season, he went and got suspended due to alleged activities that led to Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator in Atlantic City. Luckily, the only thing new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak did well with the Texans last year was balancing the work between Arian Foster and Ben Tate, so organizing Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce shouldn’t lead to many heart attacks.
The Ugly: I started watching The Wire extremely late. I don’t know why, but when everyone says I have to watch something, I make the decision not to watch a show until years later when it’s not even ironic to say, “You need to watch The Wire.” I’m up to season 5 right now and am astonished that I survived a weekend in Baltimore when I went to a Ravens home game. Power Plant Live felt like a commercialized version of Hamsterdam. I wonder if visiting teams feel the same way when playing the Ravens’ defense.
Record: 11-5. After two years as a wildcard playoff team, the Cincinnati Bengals took the AFC North division so that they could finally have a home playoff game. Even better, the Houston Texans — the team that ended the Bengals’ playoff runs the previous two years — were nowhere near the playoffs last year. The 2013 playoffs will be different, they thought! This year we’re gonna… get knocked out of the playoffs by the Chargers.
The Good: Usually when you say a team is “well-rounded,” you mean that they play spoiler quite a bit without being a real threat. But the Bengals really are a well-rounded team. Andy Dalton isn’t totally useless as long as he can throw the ball within 50 feet of A.J. Green. Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are good enough to share carries between themselves. The defense is stable. The uniforms haven’t gone through any major changes. Maybe they’re so well-rounded that they’re boring.
The Bad: I don’t think I can ever watch a Bengals game seriously because of Andy Dalton. It’s not the red hair. I am a ginger myself, or at least a ginger in remission due to getting old and losing the bright red hue I once had. Kind of like Carson Palmer.
No, I can’t take a Bengals game seriously because whenever Dalton smiles, I’m reminded of Jack Nicholson’s role as the Joker and expect Dalton to start chasing players around the field with a giant mallet. Maybe he should…
The Ugly: Bengals hopeful quarterback Matt Scott can’t stop puking!
No, really. Matt Scott’s skill set seems to be throwing, running and puking all over the place. It’s been his thing since his days at the University of Arizona. If a character like this hasn’t made it into a sports movie (besides that giant Samoan who ate all the eggs in Necessary Roughness), it has to happen soon. Either that, or give Matt Scott a starting position somewhere. Maybe with the Cleveland Browns.
Record: 4-12. And what did the Cleveland Browns do with their latest ineptitude? Traded away their draft pick for a cornerback and a bag of magic beans named Johnny Manziel. When your team tries to follow Kevin Costner’s drafting tactics in a movie, you can’t expect things to make sense.
But this year will be different. With the Texans’ backup running back Ben Tate in the backfield, wide receiver Josh Gordon suspended and a quarterback competition between journeyman backup quarterback Brian Hoyer and Skip Bayless’ latest football crush aka NFL bust, Johnny Manziel, I’m sure the Browns can right the ship this season and go 2-14. Hey, they’re playing the Raiders and Jaguars, so a perfectly awful record will be tough.
The Good: If there was ever a city that could suck the life out of a polarizing player like Johnny Manziel, it’s Cleveland. Consider this: Johnny Manziel has made headlines just by traveling around and having a good time in the off-season. Could you imagine if he was going to play in Miami or New York? He would probably end up making the movie The Hangover a reality. He can’t get into too much trouble in Cleveland, can he?
The Bad: Jordan Cameron probably still has a concussion from last season. Josh Gordon will be lucky to play one game this season because he can’t stop smoking weed. Miles Austin will most likely get hurt during pre-game introductions in week 1. And the new quarterback, Johnny Manziel, was the same draft number as the Brown’s last Big Hypes: Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden. There’s nothing bad here. There are only varying degrees of awful.
The Ugly: It’s been almost 20 years since Art Modell took his team out of Cleveland and ran to Baltimore, which is kind of like leaving your comatose wife so you can start dating someone else in a coma. It’s pretty much change for change’s sake.
But Browns fans just can’t forgive, as was proven by a YouTube video of a Browns fan urinating on Art Modell’s grave, which has since been taken down. Stay classy, Cleveland.
Record: 8-8. It was one of those seasons that makes you scratch your head. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost their first four games, including games against the Titans and Vikings. They ended with three wins in a row, including one against the Packers. They beat the Lions and lost to the Raiders. I can’t tell if the Steelers were bad but lucky or good but unlucky.
The Good: LeVeon Bell looks like a mini-Jamaal Charles and Antonio Brown has taken over the duties of Mike Wallace, so at least Ben Roethlisberger has someone to throw to besides Heath Miller. Even if those guys can’t run anything that could be considered a route, Roethlisberger is king of “go long” football.
The Bad: The rest of the offense looks like the professional football version of the Bad News Bears. Lance Moore was cast out of New Orleans and landed in Pittsburgh. Darrius Heyward-Bey dropped passes in both Oakland and Indianapolis before arriving here. LeGarrette Blount received multiple spankings from Bill Belichick last year due to fumblitis. It’s a bad situation when you’re upset about the loss of Jerricho Cotchery.
The Ugly: Everyone on the Steelers defense looks like they’re 40 years old. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few grey hairs on Troy Polamalu’s flowing mane. This is definitely not the same defense that Mike Tomlin coached to two Super Bowls, although some of the players were around during Bill Cowher’s tenure as head coach. Yeah, that old.
Patrick Emmel is a sports humorist who once punted a soccer ball fifty yards to his teammate, who then scored the only goal for his college intramural soccer team’s season. Seriously, that kick was placed PERFECTLY. He is also still a believer that Colt McCoy is going to break out as an NFL quarterback. You can read more of his obnoxious commentary at This Jeer In Sports and heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.