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  • Writer's pictureMason Dalley

2023 NFL Season Preview: AFC NORTH

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Team Totals, Player Props and other Season Long Picks

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Cleveland Browns

O/U: 9.5

Super Bowl: +3000

AFC Champion: +1800

AFC North Winner: +400

AP



2022 Record: 7-10(8-9 ATS)

2022 Scoring Offense: 18th(DVOA 8th)

2022 Scoring Defense: 20th(DVOA 23rd)

2022 Special Teams: 26th(DVOA 14th)


Free Agency


Additions: IDL Trysten Hill, S Juan Thornhill, S Rodney McLeod, OG Wes Martin, OG Colby Gossett, CB Mike Ford, WR Elijah Moore, WR Marquise Goodwin, TE Jordan Akins, EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, QB Josh Dobbs, IDL Dalvin Tomlinson, EDGE Za'Darius Smith, IDL Maurice Hurst, LB Matt Adams


Re-signings: CB AJ Green, LB Anthony Walker Jr, C Ethan Pocic, WR Jakeem Grant, LB Jordan Kunasyzyk, OG Michael Dunn, LB Sione Takitaki, CB Thomas Graham Jr.


Departures: OL Chris Hubbard, EDGE Chris Odom, LB Deion Jones, EDGE Jadaveon Clowney, LB Jermaine Carter Jr., TE Jesse James, RB Kareem Hunt, LB Reggie Ragland, S Ronnie Harrison, EDGE Stephen Weatherly, IDL Ben Stille, OG Hjalte Froholdt, TE Pharaoh Brown, IDL Taven Bryan, QB Jacoby Brisset, CB Greedy Williams, LB Tae Davis, RB D'Ernest Johnson, EDGE Chase Winovich


Draft

Round 3: Cedric Tillman(73), Tennessee WR, Siaki Ika(98), Baylor IDL

Round 4: Dawand Jonmes(111), Ohio State OT, Isaiah McGuire(126), Missouri EDGE

Round 5: Dorian Thompson-Robinson(140), UCLA QB, Cameron Mitchell(142), Northwestern CB

Round 6: Luke Wypler(190), Ohio State C


Undrafted Free Agents

CB Caleb Biggers, Boise State

LB Mohamoud Diabate, Utah

TE Thomas Greaney, Albany

RB Hassan Hall, Georgia Tech

S Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State

EDGE Jeremiah Martin, Washington

S Tanner McCallister, Ohio State

EDGE Lonnie Phelps, Kansas

LB Charlie Thomas III, Georgia Tech




2023 Preview


The Cleveland Browns are the Factory of Sadness. It's because they have a bad owner that gets in the way of the football, and that is the story of this team. I have severe doubts regarding Kevin Stefanski and the entire coaching and medical staffs for how they allowed Baker Mayfield to play through a torn labrum in his non throwing arm despite the fact that he clearly was not healthy enough to be playing. The very large elephant in the room is owner Jimmy Haslam forcing the Deshaun Watson trade as he was embroiled in a trial regarding his alleged 27 sexual assaults and immediately extending him to the first even fully guaranteed deal in NFL history, for 230 million dollars. It's a deal so bad on arrival that it was immediately restructured to backload the deal so the team can have a semblance of competitive integrity. The Browns have the 2023 season to do anything with this current roster talent, and then Watson will be having a cap hit of $63,977,000, from 2024 to 2026 where it will take up 1/4th to 1/5th of the cap space in the those seasons. For a quarterback that held out for a full season and then was suspended for 11 games the next season. It's bleak.


I take severe issue with teams and organizations that do not focus on winning and capitalizing on opportunities they have been afforded. The Cleveland Browns very well could have finished the year 9-8 and threatened a wild card spot if they stuck with Jacoby Brissett at QB for the entirety of the 2022 season. While very much a replacement level quarterback, Brissett is risk averse and will rarely sewer a team with poor field position. He also doesn't take sacks, getting brought down at only a 6% clip. With the Browns' great offensive line, Nick Chubb being a monster, and Amari Cooper being as QB proof as ever, the Browns would have had a chance to make it to playoffs and be a competitive team. They instead waved the white flag and let a sex pest have an opportunity to shake off the rust. If it's a move that was mandated by ownership, everyone involved with the Browns coaching staff and front office should have shown some pride and risked getting fired to have success on the football field. Instead you have a locker room that knows the organization is unserious about winning. What is the point of having a bad ass offensive line led by All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio? What is the point of Nick Chubb's excellence? What is the point of trading 3 1st round picks, a 3rd round pick, and 4th round pick for a morally degenerate QB whose track record is 2 pretty good seasons, one great season, and a hold out if not to win as many games as possible right now. There is no future for the Cleveland Browns starting in 2024. They needed to maximize their window right now and it's just not going to happen.


Watson was horrific in 6 games of action. 6.0 Yards per Attempt is abysmal. He suffered a 10.5% sack rate, the majority of which were on him, and the raw number was 20 sacks, almost as many as Brissett suffered in 11 games started. Adding Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin will not matter if Watson doesn't regain his awareness on the football field. The bad-ass offensive line will not matter if the 230 million dollar man does not play like he's worth 230 million dollars. It's almost impossible to predict how the offense will play, since the QB who is supposed to be good, looked worse than he ever did at Clemson or as a rookie in year 6.


The defense also inspires no confidence and has effectively wasted having a generational pass rusher in Myles Garrett. The blame has been on Gregg Williams and Joe Woods misusing the pieces they were given in the past. Now they have a defense that is comprised of Garrett, Okoronkwo, a bunch of draft picks who have under performed their pick position, and injection of vets on one year deals who are past their primes. Perfect for a retread defensive coordinator who has only been successful when handed an absurdly loaded defensive roster in Jim Schwartz. Dalvin Tomlinson, Shelby Harris, and Za'Darius Smith have all been great in the past. There is a reason why they are available for cheap one year deals. Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II, and Grant Delpit have underperformed on their first contracts, and bringing in Juan Thornhill who thrived with Spagnuolo as his DC is incredibly risky. Thriving in one system does not guarantee thriving in another, especially since putting on a Browns uniform has been a kiss of death for careers for about 25 years or so. The secondary was a major weakness and I don't think a scheme change can remedy it to a point where it becomes a top half unit.



OVER OR UNDER

Under. There is no reason to believe in this team


Player Prop

Myles Garrett is a machine. If he plays all 17 games he will push 20 sacks. OVER 14.75 at +110 is juicy.





Pittsburgh Steelers

O/U: 8.5

Super Bowl: +4500

AFC Champion: +2500

AFC North Winner: +470

Joe Sargent/Getty Images

2022 Record: 9-8(10-6-1 ATS)

2022 Scoring Offense: 26th(DVOA 18th)

2022 Scoring Defense: 10th(DVOA 12th)

2022 Special Teams: 28th(DVOA 27th)


Free Agency


Additions: IDL Armon Watts, S Keanu Neal, IDL Manny Jones, IDL Breiden Fehoko, LB Cole Holcomb, LB Elandon Roberts, LG Isaac Seumalo, RG Nate Herbig, WR Allen Robinson, LB Tanner Muse, RT Le'Raven Clark, CB Chandon Sullivan, CB Patrick Peterson


Re-signings: WR Anthony Miller, LS Christian Kuntz, S Damontae Kazee, CB James Pierre, IDL Larry Ogunjobi, QB Mason Rudolph, WR Miles Boykin, TE Zach Gentry


Departures: CB Ahkello Witherspoon, CB Arthur Maulet, RB Benny Snell, CB Carlins Platel, IDL Chris Wormley, FB Derek Watt, EDGE Jamir Jones, RB Jeremy McNichols, RT Jessie Davis, S Karl Joseph, S Marcus Allen, LB Myles Jack, LB Tae Crowder, EDGE Tyson Alualu, CB William Jackson III, RT Trenton Scott, EDGE Malik Reed, S Terrell Edmunds, JC Hassenauer, CB Cam Sutton, LB Robert Spillane, LB Devin Bush, WR Steven Sims



Draft

Round 1: Broderick Jones(14), Georgia OT

Round 2: Joey Porter Jr.(32), Penn State CB, Keeanu Benton(49), Wisconsin IDL

Round 3: Darnell Washington(93), Georgia TE

Round 4: Nick Herbig(132), Wisconsin EDGE

Round 7: Cory Trice Jr.(241), Purdue CB, Spencer Anderson(251), Maryland OG


Undrafted Free Agents

QB Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

FB Monte Pottebaum, Iowa

WR Jordan Byrd, San Diego State

EDGE David Perales, Fresno State

K BT Potter, Clemson

C Trevor Downing, Iowa State


2023 Preview


Right from the rip I would just like to say, the Pittsburgh Steelers will win 9 games. That's just what they do. The Steelers have the benefit of a 3rd place schedule that will be slightly softer than a 2nd place schedule considering how loaded the AFC is on the whole. Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season and this year, I don't see it changing. It'll definitely be the most contentious season for the Steelers in the record department, but it will all hinges on one thing and one thing alone, health.


Starting with the offense, there are no outright bad players. Everyone on that side of the ball has shown to be at least average, and in the cases of Pat Freiermuth, George Pickens, and Diontae Johnso, they've shown to be great players. I really like the free agent signing of Isaac Seumalo because that shores up the interior offensive line, which pairs incredibly well with the draft pick of massive immovable human being Broderick Jones. The offensive line should be better on the whole, which should boost the offense on the whole. Pickens, Freiermuth, Johnson, and old man Allen Robinson is a solid pass catching group. The Darnell Washington draft pick will also help the run game tremendously because he has tackle size with tight end hands. He won't be lighting up the scoreboard for fantasy owners but his positive impact on the offense will be felt mainly by Najee Harris fantasy drafters. Najee Harris was a bad draft pick but that's not his fault. It's impossible for a running back to live up to their value if they're picked in the first round. He's poised to have his most efficient, productive year yet, but it all hinges on two men. Kenny Pickett and Matt Canada


Kenny Pickett I think is in the Fitzmagic zone. He shows flashes but also some incredible doi-doi plays. What was very scary was how he only threw 7 TD's to 9 INT's in 389 attempts. That comes out to a 1.8% touchdown rate and a 2.3% interception rate. Honestly the interception rate is really good. He's bad decisions averse and can take care of the ball. The lack of scoring and the 6.2 Y/A is my main concern, and that has more to do with the play calling than the QB himself. Pickett has an opportunity to show some serious progress in year 2, but until he starts pushing the ball down the field and makes some big time throws, I'm thinking he's below the Derek Carr zone of passable starter.


The real issue for the Steelers on offense is Matt Canada, the offensive coordinator. He is a hyper conservative play-caller. I really am not a fan of how vanilla his offense is. It's 33% inside zone runs, which is very punishing for a bell cow running back and not a back by committee philosophy. 21% outside zone makes sense as the partner for inside zone. The biggest fundamental issue I have with the offense is that there is a lack of misdirection. There is very little man blocking, and no pulling guards and tackles. They run no counter, and the only misdirection they run is jet sweeps at a 10% clip of their runs plays. They pair this with a passing attack where 37% of the throws were hitches, outs, and scrambles because there was nowhere to go. Canada dialed up only the 26th most play-action passes in the NFL for the QB that was only behind Geno Smith in deep ball accuracy rate at 56.1% of throws beyond 20 yards. Why play to the strengths of your players when you can run the most blasé, vanilla, boring offense in the NFL? Until Matt Canada shows he can call an NFL offense that can actually score the ball, I do not believe in this offense to be better than than around 20th in the NFL.


The defense will be good as long as TJ Watt is healthy. It's very unfortunate for me because it makes it hard to prattle on about the other players on the defense. The secondary should be overall better with the additions of Pat Pete, Chandon Sullivan, and Joey Porter Jr. The linebackers are mediocre, but Elandon Roberts is a proven thumper in the run game, just don't let him get caught in pass coverage. The straw that stirs the drink is the line and EDGE players. Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi are as stout as they come on the inside, while TJ Watt has a Robin to his Batman in Alex Highsmith. The defensive line alone will keep them competitive, even if the secondary is aging and gets cooked by high end talent at the receiver position. That doesn't matter if they can cover long enough for Watt to put the QB on the ground.


OVER OR UNDER

Vegas knew what they were doing with 8.5. Mike Tomlin has never finished below .500. Why should I assume that's the case in a year where the team is overall solid and has a 10 win ceiling?


Player Prop

TJ WATT IS EVEN ODDS ON DK GO GO GO 13.25 ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????? IF HE'S HEALTHY THAT'S THE LOCK OF THE CENTURY



Baltimore Ravens

O/U: 10.5

Super Bowl: +1800

AFC Champion: +900

AFC North Winner: +210

Kenny Allen/Press Box


2022 Record: 10-7(8-9-1 ATS)

2022 Scoring Offense: 19th(DVOA 12th)

2022 Scoring Defense: 3rd(DVOA 7th)

2022 Special Teams: 1st( DVOA 4th)


Free Agency


Additions: WR Odell Beckham Jr, QB Josh Johnson, C Sam Mustipher, WR Nelson Agholor, CB Rock Ya-Sin


Re-signings: IDL Brent Urban, CB Daryl Worley, LB Del'Sahwn Phillips, S Geno Stone, RB Gus Edwards, EB Justice Hill, CB Kevon Seymour, LB Kristian Welch, QB Lamar Jackson, IDL Michael Pierce, LS Nick Moore, LB Roquan Smith, CB Trayvon Mullen, QB Tyler Huntley


Departures: EDGE Daelin Hayes, WR DeMarcus Robinson, RT Ja'Wuan James, EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul, EDGE Justin Houston, RB Kenyan Drake, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Marcus Peters, RB Ricky Person Jr, WR Sammy Watkins, EDGE Steven Means, LB Vince Biegel, LG Ben Powers, IDL Calais Campbell, S Chuck Clark, C Trystan Colon-Castillo, TE Josh Oliver


Draft

Round 1: Zay Flowers(22), Boston College WR

Round 3: Trenton Simpson(86), Clemson LB

Round 4: Tavius Robinson(124), Ole Miss EDGE

Round 5: Kyu Blu Kelly(157), Stanford CB

Round 6: Sala Aumavae-Laulu(199), Oregon OG

Round 7: Andrew Vorhees(229), USC OG


Undrafted Free Agents

IDL Kaieem Caesar, Ohio

IDL Trey Botts, Colorado-State Pueblo

EDGE Cameron Peterson, Southern

C Jake Guidone, UConn

OL Tashawn Manning, Kentucky

OT Tykeem Doss, Southern Miss

OL Jaylon Thomas, SMU

OL Brandon Kipper, Oregon State

RB Keaton Mitchell, ECU

RB Owen Wright, Monmouth

TE Brian Walker, Shepherd

TE Travis Vokolek, Nebraska

WR Dontay Demus Jr, Maryland

CB Jeremy Lucien, Vanderbilt

CB Corey Mayfield, UTSA

QB Nolan Henderson, Delaware

FB/DL Levi Bell, Texas State

LB Malik Hamm, Lafayette



2023 Preview


The Ravens and the Steelers are eternal rivals, destined to be staring at each other telling each other that "We're not so different you and I". They've had the same head coaches for the past 15 or so seasons. They rarely have losing seasons, in the Steeler's case they just haven't, and they always seem to figure out how to have a defense that creates impact plays year over year. The rest of their competency comes in different flavors, so let's talk about how the Ravens are infuriatingly squandering an MVP wining quarterback by having had a stone ages level offensive philosophy.


The single most impactful decision the Ravens made this offseason was not re-signing Lamar Jackson. It was finally firing Greg Roman and replacing him with Todd Monken. Greg Roman knows how to do exactly one thing, and that's how to have an electric season with a QB who can run and then over time never replicate that success due to being figured out by the rest of the NFL or due to the QB breaking down physically. This played out once already in San Fransciso with Colin Kaepernick with Greg Roman as his play caller, and the Ravens made the correct de sure that Lamar wouldn't just be ran up the middle with QB Power over and over and over again despite him being 6'2 210LBS. It's baffling to me that Roman was the Ravens OC for so long, even with the MVP year being in large part thanks to him. Going from Roman to Monken will be going from a 1995 Toyata Camry to a 2024 Ferrari. Monken had Stetson Bennett looking good and getting nominated for the Heisman. Imagine what he can do play-design wise with an MVP winner and a bunch of maulers on the offensive line?


Now for as much optimism I have in terms of the Ravens coming into the modern age of football on offense, I have two major concerns. Their strength and condition program was rated dead last by the NFLPA Player's Survey, and that explains why JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Ronnie Stanley, and Lamar Jackson have had issues coming back from injuries. The other issue is that the pas catching group is probably the worst in the NFL, even with the edition of Zay Flowers in the draft. Flowers will be a beast in the slot and since Todd Monken believes in more than one player catching passes on a team, so Flowers and Mark Andrews will be getting it done in that regard. Watch out for Isaiah Likely too, he's a very solid #2 TE and can really help with diversifying the Red Zone offense. I don't even know if Zay Flowers is Ravens proof, because they should have the reputation the Patriots have for turning WR's into busts. Brehsad Perriman, Marquise Brown, and now Rashod Bateman have either completely busted or totally underperformed their expectations. Odell Beckham Jr hasn't played football in over a year and has two bad knees, and I don't think Laquon Treadwell will be contributing either. They will still have to rely on the run game to be explosive, and with their personnel that was 2nd in rushing DVOA in 2022, they should be productive. They just might not have the firepower to attack downfield to be a truly elite offense.


The other side of the ball has exactly one concern for me. They rely on a lot of veterans and some of those veterans have injury histories. I do love the addition of Rock Ya-Sin to help a relatively weak corner room. Brandon Stephens and Arthur Maulet just aren't good enough to be getting significant snaps at corner, and old man Ronald Darby isn't what he used to be. The run defense will be good. Michael Pierce is a stonewall and Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith will fill gaps soundly. The safeties are the stars of the show with Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams being so solid that the Ravens can be as exotic as they want in coverages, knowing that over the top is safe.



OVER OR UNDER

Over. The Ravens are winning 11 games at a minimum if the team maintains its health. The Floor could fall through injury wise, but I don't like to account for potential injuries.


Player Prop

Zay Flowers at +3000 to win OROY is a nice $10 set it and forget it type of bet. I think he's going to have a very boom or bust season. A more realistic pick is Mark Andrews OVER 825.5 Receiving Yards at +100 is a lock as long as he plays the majority of games, and if Lamar plays the majority of games.




Cincinnati Bengals

O/U: 11.5

Super Bowl: +1000

AFC Champion: +550

AFC North Winner: +150

AP PHOTO


2022 Record: 12-4(12-4 ATS)

2022 Scoring Offense: 8th(DVOA 4th)

2022 Scoring Defense: 5th(DVOA 11th)

2022 Special Teams: 25th(DVOA 18th)


Free Agency


Additions: OG Cody Ford, LT Orlando Brown, CB Sidney Jones, S Nick Scott, EDGE Tarell Basham, TE Irv Smith Jr, QB Trevor Siemian


Re-signings: LS Cal Adomitis, TE Drew Sample, LB Germaine Pratt, CB Jalen Davis, LB Joe Bachie, RG Max Scharping, S Michael Thomas, RB Trayveon Williams, WR Trent Taylor


Departures: TEW Hayden Hurst, S Vonn Bell, S Jessie Bates, CB Tre Flowers, QB Brandon Allen, S Brandon Wilson, CB Chris Lammons, LS Clark Harris, LB Clay Johnston, CB Eli Apple, RB Elijah Holyfield, TE Mitchell Wilcox, RB Samajae Perine


Draft

Round 1: Myles Murphy(28), Clemson EDGE

Round 2: DJ Turner II(60), Michigan CB

Round 3: Jordan Battle(95), Alabama S

Round 4: Charlie Jones(131) Purdue WR

Round 5: Chase Brown(163) Illinois RB

Round 6: Andrei Iosivas(206) Princeton WR, Brad Robbins(217) Michigan P

Round 7: DJ Ivey(246) Miami CB


Undrafted Free Agents

S Larry Brooks, Tulane

WR Malachi Carter, Georgia Tech

LB Shaka Heyward, Duke

WR Mac Hippenhammer, Miami(OH)

WE Shedrick Jones, Auburn

OG Jaxson Kirkland, Washington

IDL Devonna Maxwell, Tennessee-Chattanooga

LB Jaylen Moody, Alabama

LB Tyler Murray, Memphis

IDL Tautala Pesefea, Arizona State

RB Jacob Saylors, East Tennessee State

TE Christian Trahan, Houston

RB Calvin Tyler Jr, Utah State



2023 Preview


The back to back reigning kings in the north are looking to continue their stranglehold over the division. The AFC North is no cakewalk, but the Bengals seems to be the best bet to win it again.


The offense is absurdly good. They can sustain losses like Samajae Perine and Hayden Hurst because the high-end talent is just that good. Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd are the best trio of receivers in the NFL. Joe Mixon as the bell cow and Trayveon Williams as the change of pace back will be as solid as ever. Look out for Irv Smith Jr. to have his best season yet as well. The biggest reason to be excited is that Joe Burrow is going to have an actual offensive line for the first time in his career. Adding Orlando Brown Jr to a group that already had Teddy Karras, Alex Cappa, and a renewed Jonah Williams is going to be deadly. The only thing stopping the offense is health.


The Defense is a different story. I do not think they'll be a sub-par unit or anything like that. I don't know if they can be a top 10 unit again with the loss of long time safety pairing Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates. Boith players headed south to get massive paydays from Carolina and Atlanta respectively. Replacing leaders in the locker room and on the field is hard. The good news for Cincy is they attacked losing both of those players in free agency and the draft. Nick Scott is a solid player and should be able to perform at a high level. Dax Hill should be taking a second year leap with more playing time and already having gotten his feet wet. The addition of Jordan Battle in the draft was also a smart pick up in the 3rd round as a developmental piece. The safeties should be fine, which is a great thing considering the corners are still very good. Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, and Cam Taylor-Britt are very solid corners, with Awuzie being one of the best in the NFL when he's right. The thing about the NFL is you can survive an average secondary if the QB just never has a chance to punish it.


The front 7 is sick. DJ Reader is the best run defender in the entire NFL and he just swallows up lineman and stuffs any sort of ground game success in running downs. He's also become a pressure machine from the nose tackle position, with 23 total in the 2022 season. It doesn't seem like much but the NT is a thankless position in terms of counting stats. BJ Hill is a solid IDL and the edge combination of Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard is tried and true. The addition of 1st round pick Myles Murphy is making a strength stronger. All 6'5 275lbs of him is being added to an already great defensive line and his impact should be felt immediately by opposing offenses. This has all been said before mentioning the real stars of the shows, Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson. I my opinion, they form the best LB pairing in the NFL. Both can stuff the run and hold up in coverage, and they do it at a high level and are why the defense works. They are great at finishing plays that end up funneled towards them. No defense can be good, let alone top 10 as they have been in recent years, without guys who can finish plays.


OVER OR UNDER

Over. Team's sick. Even at 11.5 the only thing that can stop them from hitting that is losing Burrow.


Player Prop

Joe Burrow at +750 to win MVP. It's 2nd shortest odds but I still really like it.



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