The 2020 NFL season is rapidly approaching. Can you believe it? We are almost there.
The Baltimore Ravens, led by reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, will look to win the AFC North for the third consecutive season. Jackson should be even better in his third season and that is a scary sight for the division and the entire league.
The Ravens will have some competition from the Cleveland Browns, who are coming off an underachieving season, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are coming off an overachieving season. Can the Ravens hold them off?
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How High Can the Ravens Fly?
Division Odds: -200
The Ravens had the best regular-season record in 2019 at 14-2 but came up short in the playoffs when they fell to the Tennessee Titans, who seemed to have figured out Jackson. This season they return a little wiser and hungry to avenge the shortcomings of a season ago.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown will look to make a big leap this season after an impressive rookie season. Last year, Brown caught 46 passes for 584 yards and seven touchdowns. Not bad for your first season in the league.
The 2020 NFL draft saw the Ravens take running back J.K. Dobbins with the 55th overall pick out of Ohio State. Dobbins should make an impact alongside Mark Ingram in the backfield.
For betting purposes, you should take the over on the win/losses, as the Ravens take another step closer to the Lombardi Trophy. The real question is whether or not they can take that step in the playoffs when it matters most.
Time to Shut Up and Put Up for the Browns
Division Odds: +480
The 2019 season was a complete trainwreck for the Cleveland Browns. After being in the media spotlight after what seemed like a great offseason. Well, paper champs never get crowned and Cleveland gt a big taste of humble pie. No player more than quarterback Baker Mayfield felt that more.
Mayfield took steps backward after a rookie season in which he set the rookie touchdown record. If Cleveland wants to avenge that abysmal 2019 season, Mayfield has to step up and play better. During the offseason, it appears that Mayfield was in great shape, was studying more film, and more importantly, wasn’t engaged in a war of words with the media. He locked in and focused on how to get better, and all signs point to that he should under new head coach Kevin Stefanski.
The offensive line got some major upgrades in the offseason. Cleveland signed Jack Conklin and then drafted Jedrick Wills Jr. 10th overall to hopefully be the next Joe Thomas and protect the blindside of Mayfield.
Behind that offensive line is where Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will do their thing. Two elite rushers behind a much-improved offensive line should bode well for the Browns. As for targets for Mayfield, he still has Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Cleveland signed former Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper in the offseason to give Mayfield another weapon.
If the Browns focus on only what they can control and the time of possession, especially with two premier backs, this team should be in a good position to make the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
Big Ben is Back for the Steelers
Division Odds: +380
The Pittsburgh Steelers had absolutely no business winning eight games last year. Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season in Week 2 so the Steelers depended on Mason Rudolph and a guy they call Duck. Roethlisberger returns this season and there are a lot of question marks about how he will play after elbow surgery. If he is anything like he was pre-injury, that only increases the chances for the Steelers to get back to the playoffs.
While the offense was lackluster at best, it was the defense who stepped up and allowed Pittsburgh to avoid a losing season. Minkah Fitzpatrick, who the Steelers traded a first-round pick for last year, really stepped up and played as a first-round pick should. The Dolphins drafted him in 2018 and traded him after two games. Fitzpatrick went on to intercept five passes with one being a touchdown.
TJ Watt put himself in the upper echelon of defensive players in the NFL. He finished the 2019 campaign with 14.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Both him and Fitzpatrick anchored that defense proved they are the definition of Pittsburgh Steeler football.
The battle for second will be fun to watch between Pittsburgh and Cleveland with both teams having something to prove.
Bengals Give the Keys to the Kingdom to Joe Burrow
The Bengals were the worst team in football a season ago going 2-14. That gave them the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and they took Joe Burrow out of LSU. Burrow set the college football world on fire en route to winning the National Championship.
Now, Burrow will look to take the Bengals back to relevancy but will have a tough, up-hill battle to climb. His offensive line isn’t very good, so that could potentially be harmful to Burrow. He has weapons in AJ Green, who is set to play for the first time in a season and a half, John Ross, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins.
Joe Mixon will occupy the backfield for at least the next five seasons after signing a new contract extension.
The journey won’t be easy for Burrow and the company, but he should make them just a bit more competitive this season.