2013 AFC North Preview & Week 1 Thursday Night Pick – NFL FootballThursday, September 5, 2013 8:47
Preview of the AFC North for the 2013 NFL football season and Week 1 Thursday Night pick–the road to Super Bowl XLIX begins tonight!
NFL PREVIEW: AFC NORTH & THURSDAY NIGHT PICK
2012 Divisional Record: 37 – 27
2012 Record: 4 – 12
In the 1984 horror flick, C.H.U.D., grotesque denizens of the New York sewer system murder random New Yorkers.
Such a promising premise fails to deliver the goods, probably because the C.H.U.D.s couldn’t murder every New Yorker or because everybody knows there are no innocent New Yorkers…
Either way, the movie has a unique double connection to the NFL football team playing in Cleveland.
Like C.H.U.D.s, the Browns seem to chew up and spit out coaches, GMs, and players. Pat Shurmer and Mike Holmgren were supposed to resurrect Cleveland back to relevance—nary a winning season. Peyton Hillis, Colt McCoy, and several other players were supposed to form “the nucleus” for an AFC North football team to match perennial post-season squads Pittsburgh and Baltimore, not to mention the upstart downstate rival from Cincinnati.
A team with so many needs as the Browns, who had only five picks in the draft—special thanks to the Holmgren regime, again—has to hit with each pick.
First-rounder Barkevious Mingo is a legitimate quick, power DE who should torture opposing QBs for the next decade. Third-rounder CB Leon McFadden might develop into a good corner, but the Browns need players who can play now—and they don’t have many on offense.
However, Cleveland’s defense could make some noise.
If DC Ray Horton can get his troops to play lights out and build some early season momentum, the Browns might just surprise themselves, otherwise, 2013 might turn out to be just as forgettable as 1984’s C.H.U.D.
Which brings us to the Browns’ second connection to that low budget, sci-fi disaster of a movie—Head Coach Rob Chudzinski, aka Chud…
Chud is a coach anyone can play for; he’s great in pressers, and he lives in a house, above ground, near Cleveland. I checked.
Chud is the best thing to happen to the Browns since they returned to Ohio. I just hope new owner, the recently indicted for fraud Jimmy Haslam, gives his new coach a chance to prove he won’t be a flop.
Predicted Finish: 6 – 10
Major Story: Brandon Weeden salvages respect for the offense, but is too inconsistent; the Cleveland defense becomes a force—but the Browns still dwell in the cellar of the AFC North.
2012 Record: 10 – 6
Ozzie Newsome is an elite NFL GM. The Rat Birds are in the hunt every year, and Newsome keeps drafting guys who play Har-Ball with the passion befitting their coach.
I thought maybe the “Ozter” was slipping when he took Matt Elam with the first round’s 32nd pick—the pick every team would kill to have. Elam is a good prospect, but has a habit—according to a few draft experts—of taking plays off and, instead of playing solid technique, going for the big hit. Two traits that might make his career Not For Long in Baltimore.
Being a Steelers fan, I was happy Newsome didn’t take the top-ranked inside linebacker Arthur Miller, who had a great collegiate career and would have been a perfect replacement—if such a player exists—for the great Ray Lewis.
“What an idiot,” I thought while basking in my superiority fantasy—until Baltimore made a trade with Seattle and took Miller in the second round, as if Ozzie and John Harbaugh knew exactly what they were doing.
It’s not like they just won the Super Bowl.
The thing is, when your center retires, when your best receiver leaves for the team you beat in the Super Bowl, when your left tackle position is a question mark and your secondary hasn’t improved in a couple years, you might be in for a let down even with a quality coach and front office.
On top of all that, if you lose two sure-fire HOFers in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, trying to make the post-season in the NFL’s toughest division will be a daunting task, let alone repeat in Super Bowl XLIX.
The Poe Boys have a solid offense with Ray Rice and Joe “Cool” Flacco, a formidable defensive front, and are as mentally strong as anyone. The Ravens cupboard isn’t bare but they may be in need of a shopping trip sooner than they think.
Predicted Finish 9 – 7
Major story: Flacco feels the pressure as Ray Rice struggles to carry the team.
2012 Record: 8 – 8
I expect way too much of myself when trying to predict the Steelers fate.
I don’t want people believing my brilliant insight is clouded by my love for the Black & Gold.
So, am I dreaming or are the Steelers not that far away from being a legit contender?
All we have to do is look at the Week 13 matchup against the Ravens in Baltimore. Charlie Batch was quarterback. (I think he used to date my grandmother.) Big Ben was out and the Ravens secondary was gimpy, but Baltimore never for one play looked like the superior team and they got beat by Charlie Friggin’ Batch!!!
The Steelers Defense has been old and slow for five years, and last year they were in the top six of every category except turnovers. In 2013 they have gotten younger and faster with Steve McClendon on the nose and Jason Worlids platooning with rookie OLB Jarvis Jones to power up the front seven.
If DEs Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward can play with their big-boy jocks on and Troy Polamalu can stay healthy a full season, the defense has a chance to be great.
And the Steelers still have the best quarterback in the AFC North in Ben Roethlisberger; his Steelers have always over achieved when the world believed they should suck.
Unfortunately, the Steelers will only vie for a wild card berth in 2013.
Predicted Finish 10 – 6
Major Story: Meet Jarvis Jones…DROY…
2012 Record: 10 – 6
Wish I was in the room when the light came on in Mike Brown’s skull. I bet it was like Einstein when he conjured up E=Mc2 or Steve Jobs when he tasted the first bite of Apple.
Maybe brothers Paul and Pete Brown, who run player personnel, are responsible for the offensive juggernaut the last few drafts have produced for the Striped Cats—and, oh, by the way, the defense isn’t far behind.
Who really cares? The Bengals have the claws to rip through the AFC and win Super Bowl XLIX.
Here are a few names that are becoming legit stars in Ohio’s Queen City: Geno Atkins, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert (R), Giovanni Bernard (R), Germaine Gresham, Kevin Zeitler, Andrew Whitworth, Vontaze Burfict.
That, football fans is an impressive list of top shelf football talent—and they’re all Cincinnati Bengals.
The only question mark is the Bengal’s secondary, but that unit can be just average. If the defensive front seven plays like Mike Zimmer will make them play, the secondary will look great.
Obviously, the name missing from perhaps the best collection of pure football talent in the league is quarterback, Andy Dalton. He’s been a no-show the last two playoff losses, and he has to make a play for greatness this year.
Tom Brady can make decent receivers look great. Dalton now has a top tier receiving corps at which to throw and an excellent line to protect him. He needs to start looking like they do or the Bengals may have to start looking elsewhere for a quarterback.
We are banking on 2013 being a breakout year for Dalton and the Bengals.
Major story: Giovanni Bernard opens the game up for Dalton as the Bengals show their stripes.
Predicted Finish: 12 – 4 Division Champs
WEEK ONE PICKS
We’ve got some exciting news regarding The Gairzo’s 2013 football picks. We’ll fill you in on the weekend post.
Right now, well call the Week One Thursday Nighter our Game of the Week and make the analysis short and sweet.
GAME OF THE WEEK 0 – 0
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos -7.5
Ask anyone close to the Broncos: Peyton Manning’s arm is much stronger, he’s had a year to get more in synch with his receivers.
Last year, coming off two neck surgeries with all new receivers, Manning eked out a mere 37 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions.
Baltimore has lost too many quality players and, like their arch-division-rivals were on opening night last year, will be thoroughly gassed by the time the fourth quarter arrives in the Mile High City.
Denver scored 17 fourth quarter points against an oxygen-starved Steelers defense. Later in the season when full speed games have been played, altitude isn’t a problem for most Denver opponents.
It’s a huge problem in Weeks 1-4. The Blue and Orange are 24 – 4 in home openers since Pat Bowlen bought the team; their .857 winning percentage leads the NFL. Their .690 percentage in September games since 1996 also sets the league standard.
The Broncos and Manning know how to take advantage of the clearest home field advantage in professional sports.
Doesn’t matter, it won’t be a close game after 3 quarters anyway.
BRONCOS 33, RAVENS 20
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