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tomlin.jpgBaltimore Ravens – Be afraid, NFL.  Be very afraid.  Add a functional offense to the best defense in the NFL , and what did you get? A 13 win Raven team in 2006.  How did they follow up the 13 win season?  They upgraded to Willis McGahee, a younger, faster replacement for departing Jamaal Lewis at RB.  QB Steve McNair looked like an answer for now, at QB.  He’s creeping up there in years, but he has the weapons around him to make this a very good season for the Ravens.

Cincinnati Bengals – Behind them, they hope, are all the arrests and off-field drama that was the Bengals’ story at the start of the 2006 season.  The question to be answered: Are the Bengals the 11 win team of 2005, or the mediocre 8 win team of 2006?  They have a load of talent at all the skill positions.  If you used one word to describe the Bengals last season – and that word wasn’t ‘convict’ – it would be streaky.  They won a few in a row, and then went on a skid for a few weeks.  They will need to avoid the roller-coaster if they are to be a player in this division.  Look for them to be better than ’06, but not quite the marvels of ’05, when it’s all said and done.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Bill Cowher’s steel jaw will be missed on the Steelers’ sideline.  Not that Mike Tomlin won’t be a great coach – he has all the potential.  But it won’t seem the same to watch the Steelers and not see that clenched mandible and fists roaming the chalk.  Those who watch for patterns will note a 15 win 2004 followed by an 11 win 2005 (the Super Bowl year), and then followed by an 8 win 2006 campaign.  Do you think Cowher chose to ride into the sunset for a reason?  Sure he did.  Look for it to be a rebuilding couple of years in Steel-town.  Hey, but good news, Steeler fans!  You open against the Browns.

Cleveland Browns – O Romeo, O Romeo, How doth thou savest thy job?  Start Charlie Frye at QB?  No, no, no.  Derek Anderson?  Nyet!  I know, how about starting the kid from Notre Dame?  Well, starting Brady Quinn might buy Romeo Crennell some sympathy for the hard work of preparing the rookie for the future, but it’s likely too little too late.  Look for Romeo to be gone if the Browns fail to finish about .500.  Or, should I say, ‘when’ the Browns fail to finish about .500.