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2009 NFL Divisional Previews: AFC North

AFC NORTH DIVISION – 2009 FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Often looked upon as a mediocre division, the frigid AFC North is home to three of the last eight Super Bowl winners.

Marc Lawrence

Marc Lawrence

It’s also where residing teams are 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS on the conference playoff road outside the North since the division realignment in 2002.

Check out conditions in the AFC North before dipping your toes in the water this season. You might be surprised at what you find.

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A new coach, a defending Super Bowl champion, and a Pro Bowl quarterback on the mend add plenty of intrigue to an already intriguing division.

Here is my take of teams in the AFC NORTH DIVISION for 2009. Coming up next: the AFC SOUTH DIVISION. Enjoy…

Enjoy…

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE

Team Theme – SOFT SHELL CRABS

Another first-year coach, in tandem with another rookie QB, took his team directly to the playoffs last year when John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco piloted the Ravens to an 8-win increase to tie the Falcons for most improved honors in the league. We believe Baltimore, like Atlanta, will take a step back in 2009, if not on the scoreboard, then in the ATS wars. You simply don’t pick up 19 net-pointspread wins from one season to the next without paying the price. Because of that sudden success, the Ravens will be favored more often this year than last and that is almost always a tough-shell to crack for teams that go from ‘loser-to-winner’ in one season. A softer, aging defense may pay the price behind new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the DC with the Florida Gators last season. Look for the Sophomore Jinx to hit Crabtown in 2009. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Green Bay (12/7)

CINCINNATI

Team Theme – OCHO STINKO

It’s the TO’s and the Ocho’s of the professional football world that drag the integrity of the NFL game to the street level of pimps gone bad. If you disagree, check the win-lost record of the saps that sign their paycheck and report back. Despite the observation, the Bengals hope to be a team on the rise in 2009. Pro Bowl QB Carson Palmer is back and that, in itself, is big news for Cincinnati. It’s the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero’s contention that Palmer carried the Bengals when he was healthy and the defense was lousy. This year, the defense has improved and, as a result, there is a new attitude on the team. “Definitely, by far, it’s been the best off-season program since I’ve been here. Everyone (other than Ocho Cinco) has been here to work and that has been great for us,” says Palmer. We’re not casting aspersions. You draw the parallel. PLAY ON: vs. Detroit (12/6)

CLEVELAND

Team Theme – PUNCH DRUNK

The Browns were the classic case of a rags-to-riches team last season and they paid the price. Off a champagne-high in 2007, the NFL rewarded the high-scoring Kardiac Kids last year by featuring them in five nationally televised contests. Reality settled in and Romeo Crennel and his 24-40 record was shipped out. As a result, Eric Mangini, former New York Jets coach and Cleveland Browns ball boy, returns home to clean up the mess. Mangini is another in a long line of Bill Belichick students and appears to be a good fit for a program looking to regain its identity. He will need to address an offense that lost its punch and a defense that has become a punching bag. Not a good combination, to say the least. The Leatherheads will be bobbing and weaving until December, when they play half of their home games of the season from that point forward. Duck! PLAY ON: as a dog vs. San Diego

PITTSBURGH

Team Theme – SIXBURGH

Mike Tomlin gets it. Like his predecessor, Bill Cowher, Tomlin knows both the importance or playing tough defense (The Steeler “D” has allowed just 256 YPG under Tomlin) and the significance of winning division games (Pittsburgh is 12-1 SU and 9-4 ATS vs division foes the last two years). Those numbers are the main reason why the Black-and-Gold picked up its sixth Super Bowl title last year despite facing the most difficult schedule in the league. Surprisingly, despite their crowning moment last year, the Steelers will take on the fourth-softest schedule in 2009. A minor cause of concern is a declining offense, one that has slipped each season behind Tomlin. On a larger scale, the weight of being a defending Super Bowl champion can be heavy. Mixed with Pitt’s 7-14 ATS mark against teams that currently reside in the NFC North division, we don’t for see a 7th heaven of the Steelers this year. PLAY ON: as favorites vs. Chicago (9/20)

Note: Marc Lawrence is a 30-year veteran handicapper. He finished No.1 in the nation (88-63 +25.7 Net Units) in MLB during the 2007 season as documented by Sports Watch in Las Vegas.

Comments are Welcome!!!

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Marc Lawrence Has Been Handicapping Sports Professionally Since 1975 – Check Out His Weekly Picks & His DAILY MLB PLAYS Today Here at Capperspicks.com >>>

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Comments

Comments

  1. You can automatically throw Cincinnati and Cleveland to the curb and concentrate on Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the AFC North. I think it will come down to Baltimores ability to beat the Steelers. They went 0-3 against them last season which cost the a division title and a shot at playing in the Super Bowl.

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