Reviewing the League AFC North and AFC South

September 08, 2005|By Previews compiled by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers

1. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 15-1, first place, lost AFC championship game.

Coach: Bill Cowher (14th season with Steelers, 138-86-1).

Key stat: Averaged 154.0 rushing yards a game.

Schedule: Could have a strong finish, hosting Bears and Lions and playing Browns on the road in the final weeks.

2005 opponents

9-11 Tennessee, 1 p.m.

9-18 at Houston, 1 p.m.

9-25 New England, 4:15 p.m.

10-2 Open date

10-10 at San Diego, 9 p.m.

10-16 Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

10-23 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

10-31 Ravens, 9 p.m.

11-6 at Green Bay, 4:15 p.m.

11-13 Cleveland, 8:30 p.m.

11-20 at Ravens, 4:15 p.m.

11-28 at Indianapolis, 9 p.m.

12-4 Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

12-11 Chicago, 1 p.m.

12-18 at Minnesota, 1 p.m.

12-24 at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

1-1 Detroit, 1 p.m.

QB Ben Roethlisberger (above) finally hit the rookie wall in the playoffs, but he'll profit by that failure. WR Plaxico Burress is gone, but they drafted two other tall receivers in TE Heath Miller (6-5) and WR Fred Gibson (6-4). They'll run with RB Duce Staley and have another exceptional defensive year with that wonderful corps of linebackers.

Baltimore Ravens

2. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 9-7, second place.

Coach: Brian Billick (seventh season with Ravens, 61-42).

Key stat: Nine defenders totaled 21 interceptions.

Schedule: Very cozy first half of the season after a tough opener with Colts.

2005 opponents

9-11 Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m.

9-18 at Tennessee, 1 p.m.

9-25 Open date

10-2 N.Y. Jets, 4:05 p.m.

10-9 at Detroit, 1 p.m.

10-16 Cleveland, 1 p.m.

10-23 at Chicago, 4:15 p.m.

10-31 at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m.

11-6 Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

11-13 at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

11-20 Pittsburgh, 4:15 p.m.

11-27 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

12-4 Houston, 1 p.m.

12-11 at Denver, 4:15 p.m.

12-19 Green Bay, 9 p.m.

12-25 Minnesota, 8:30 p.m.

1-1 at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

They finally did something about their receivers, dumping Travis Taylor, bringing in Derrick Mason and drafting Mark Clayton. They should be significantly better on offense if QB Kyle Boller can develop. Defensively, several players are beginning to log some age, including MLB Ray Lewis. RB Jamal Lewis (above) is back for a full season, and that should mean 1,500 rushing yards.

Cincinnati Bengals

3. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 8-8, third place.

Coach: Marvin Lewis (third season with Bengals, 16-16).

Key stat: K Shayne Graham was 3-for-4 on field-goal attempts of 50 yards or more.

Schedule: Four of the first six are on the road and then they catch a streak of four out of five games at home.

2005 opponents

9-11 at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

9-18 Minnesota, 1 p.m.

9-25 at Chicago, 1 p.m.

10-2 Houston, 1 p.m.

10-9 at Jacksonville, 8:30 p.m.

10-16 at Tennessee, 1 p.m.

10-23 Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

10-30 Green Bay, 1 p.m.

11-6 at Ravens , 1 p.m.

11-13 Open date

11-20 Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

11-27 Ravens, 1 p.m.

12-4 at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

12-11 Cleveland, 1 p.m.

12-18 at Detroit, 4:05 p.m.

12-24 Buffalo, 1 p.m.

1-1 at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

QB Carson Palmer (above) took off in the second half of the 2004 season, running up significant point totals against strong defensive teams. But the worries continue on defense. They're strong up front, but linebacker and safety are unsettled.

Cleveland Browns

4. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 4-12, fourth place.

Coach: Romeo Crennel (first season with Browns).

Key stat: Lost nine of their last 10 games.

Schedule: Early games vs. Bengals, Packers and Bears, but a very tough finish at home vs. Steelers and Ravens in final two weeks.

2005 opponents

9-11 Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

9-18 at Green Bay, 4:15 p.m.

9-25 at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

10-2 Open date

10-9 Chicago, 1 p.m.

10-16 at Ravens, 1 p.m.

10-23 Detroit, 1 p.m.

10-30 at Houston, 1 p.m.

11-6 Tennessee, 1 p.m.

11-13 at Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m.

11-20 Miami, 1 p.m.

11-27 at Minnesota, 1 p.m.

12-4 Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

12-11 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

12-18 at Oakland, 4:05 p.m.

12-24 Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

1-1 Ravens, 1 p.m.

Lots of turnover on and off the field. The defense had a good final three games in 2004, but the unit has just average players, and some are returning from injury. The offense is mediocre on balance, but has a few weapons in RBs Reuben Droughns and William Green (above) and rookie WR Braylon Edwards.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars

1. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 9-7, second place.

Coach: Jack Del Rio (third season with Jaguars, 14-18).

Key stat: A league-low 42 percent TDs in the red zone.

Schedule: Only cold-weather game is Dec. 4 at Browns, and three of the last four are against division opponents.

2005 opponents

9-11 Seattle, 1 p.m.

9-18 at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

9-25 at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

10-2 Denver, 1 p.m.

10-9 Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m.

10-16 at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

10-23 Open date

10-30 at St. Louis, 1 p.m.

11-6 Houston, 1 p.m.

11-13 Ravens , 1 p.m.

11-20 at Tennessee, 1 p.m.

11-27 at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

12-4 at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

12-11 Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

12-18 San Francisco, 1 p.m.

12-24 at Houston, 1 p.m.

1-1 Tennessee, 4:05 p.m.

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