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2013 AFC North Preview

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

2012 Common Opponents: AFC West, NFC East
2013 Common Opponents: AFC East, NFC North

With the Steelers dropping to 8-8 in 2012 and the Ravens losing several starters following their Super Bowl victory, it has become trendy to pick Cincinnati to win the AFC North in 2013. But our analysis suggests the Ravens and Steelers still have a better shot of finishing 1st. While none of the 3 squads really look like Super Bowl contenders in 2013, it should still be a tightly fought division as all 3 battle for playoff spots.

Baltimore Ravens

2012 Record: 10-6
2012 Rating: 3.1 (8th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 9.4
2013 Division Rank Opponents: HOU & DEN
2013 Preliminary Rating: 1.1 (9th of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 8.6

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
WR - Anquan Boldin / 84 / SF >>> Jacoby Jones / 79 / -
TE - Dennis Pitta / 83 / inj >>> Ed Dickson / 79 / -
C - Matt Birk / 86 / ret >>> Gino Gradkowski / 78 / -
T - Jah Reid / 79 / - >>> Bryant McKinnie / 81 / -
DE - Pernell McPhee / 80 / - >>> Chris Canty / 84 / NYG
LB - Paul Kruger / 86 / CLE >>> Elvis Dumervil / 89 / DEN
LB - Dannell Ellerbe / 80 / MIA >>> Daryl Smith / 82 / JAC
LB - Jameel McClain / 81 / inj >>> Josh Bynes / 75 / -
CB - Cary Williams / 81/ PHI >>> Lardarius Webb / 84 / inj
S - Ed Reed / 88 / HOU >>> Michael Huff / 81 / OAK
S - Bernard Pollard / 80 / TEN >>> Matt Elam / 79 / rk

Despite winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens finished only 8th in our ratings. The media generally accepts the same idea that the Ravens were a bit lucky, and combined with the numerous losses on the roster, has often concluded that the Ravens will experience a huge dropoff in 2013. But it's not quite that simple; widely under-reported is the fact that the defense has arguably improved with the players they have acquired to replace those that were lost. The offensive losses have not been as well patched up, as Baltimore will ask 4 former backups to step into the starting lineup.

Cincinnati Bengals

2012 Record: 10-6
2012 Rating: 0.7 (16th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 8.6
2013 Division Rank Opponents: IND & SD
2013 Preliminary Rating: -0.1 (19th of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 7.8

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
C - Jeff Faine / 77 / FA >>> Kyle Cook / 81 / inj
LB - Manny Lawson / 81 / BUF >>> James Harrison / 83 / PIT
S - Nate Clements / 80 / FA >>> George Iloka / 74 / -

The Bengals will sport virtually the same roster in 2013, and have often been called AFC North favorites with a young and developing core. The defense, under budding superstar DT Geno Atkins, finished 5th in our 2012 ratings. We can expect some slight regression in that area, but the defense should remain stout. The offense, however, still is a source of concern. While it did show improvement last season, Cincinnati was still lucky to make the playoffs the past 2 seasons. The Bengals pass game was still below average in 2012, and with their success in several other categories more likely to regress in 2013, our stats suggest Cincinnati is still probably more likely to miss than make the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns

2012 Record: 5-11
2012 Rating: -3.6 (28th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 5.8
2013 Division Rank Opponents: JAC & KC
2013 Preliminary Rating: -1.7 (28th of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 7.0

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
TE - Benjamin Watson / 81 / NO >>> Jordan Cameron / 78 / -
DT - Billy Winn / 78 / - >>> DE Desmond Bryant / 84 / OAK
DE - Frostee Rucker / 77 / ARI >>> LB Paul Kruger / 86 BAL
CB - Sheldon Brown / 82 / FA >>> Buster Skrine / 78 / -
S - Usama Young / 80 / OAK >>> Tashaun Gipson / 76 / -

The Browns enter 2013 with a similar roster to 2012, with a couple of upgrades on the defensive front but also a couple of downgrades in the secondary. Cleveland was pretty average last season all around except for a poor passing game. As a result, it seems progress being made by QB Brandon Weeden is necessary in order to boost the Browns to even mediocrity in a tough division. Turning 30 in only his 2nd season, Weeden may already be entering his last chance to remain a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2012 Record: 8-8
2012 Rating: 0.7 (15th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 8.6
2013 Division Rank Opponents: TEN & OAK
2013 Preliminary Rating: 0.8 (12th of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 8.6

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
WR - Mike Wallace / 85 / MIA >>> Jerricho Cotchery / 79 / -
G - Willie Colon / 81 / NYJ >>> David DeCastro / 80 / inj
T - Max Starks / 80 / SD >>> Marcus Gilbert / 81 / inj
DT - Casey Hampton / 82 / FA >>> Steve McLendon / 80 / -
LB - James Harrison / 82 / CIN >>> Jason Worilds / 79 / -
CB - Keenan Lewis / 82 / NO >>> Cortez Allen / 80 / -

The Steelers roster changes have generally been downgrades, but should be relatively minor apart from Mike Wallace. The Steelers offense fell off a bit last season amid Roethlisberger missing a few games and the offensive line suffering some injuries as well. Depending on if the offense can rebound to its efficiency from previous years, expectations for Pittsburgh range anywhere from division champions to another disappointing .500 season. Finishing 3rd in the division in 2012 gave the Steelers 2 much easier division rank opponents than the Ravens and Bengals will face.

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

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