AFC North: Baltimore Ravens set for big season with Super Bowl aspirations

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Over the past decade or so, the AFC North division has been dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers as Ben Roethlisberger and company usually win the division and have a legitimate shot of contending for a Super Bowl title.

Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers could be back to form next season, last year’s title defense was arguably one of the most forgettable seasons in recent memory as the defending champs failed to make the playoffs.

Not only was last season an absolute disappointment for the Steelers, but controversy followed as Pro Bowl quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in the offseason. As a result, the two-time Super Bowl champ was suspended for the first six games of the season after being cleared of all charges.

Needless to say, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be fighting an uphill battle this season while fending off the Baltimore Ravens who are favorites to win the AFC North division.

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Here is a rundown of the AFC North heading into next season:

Pittsburgh Steelers (last season: 9-7)
Last season was an absolute disaster for the Steelers and the punishment won’t stop there as the first six games of the upcoming NFL season they will have to play without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger due to suspension.

One of the main reasons for the Steelers poor season last year was safety Troy Polamalu’s injured knee. Not many people give credit to safeties in this league, but the value of Polamalu was obvious last season as the Pittsburgh defense was just not the same without him.

This season Polamalu will be ready to go for the Steelers, but this time it will be the offense that suffers without Big Ben and recently traded wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

I expect to see another long and painful season for the Steelers as I really can’t see them competing with the likes of the Baltimore Ravens or the Cincinnati Bengals in this division.

Cleveland Browns (last season: 5-11)
Over the past couple of seasons, the Cleveland Browns have been an absolute mess as they just haven’t been able to get back to their 2007 form where they were able to win 10 games with quarterback Derek Anderson behind center.

Unfortunately, the Browns were unable to get into the playoffs that year, but they definitely had high hopes for the future with a promising young quarterback on the bench in Brady Quinn and two Pro Bowlers in the passing game with tight end Kellen Winsolw Jr. and wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

Since 2007, the Browns have failed to get back to their winning ways as the team has just fallen apart and all the players mentioned were traded away.
Now the Browns will be starting over once again as they attempt to compete in this extremely competitive AFC North division, but I believe it will be the same result as last season with no more than five wins on the season.

Cincinnati Bengals (last season: 10-6, division title)
Before last season, the Cincinnati Bengals were considered a joke as all they seemed to have on their team was a bunch of trouble makers that frequent the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Despite not many people believing the Bengals would do much last season, Carson Palmer and company played much better than anticipated and were able to reach the playoffs once again while clinching the AFC North title for the first time since 2005.

Not only were the Cincinnati Bengals able to get their high powered offense back to form with a healthy Carson Palmer, a motivated Ochocinco and one of the best running game in the league led by Cedric Benson, but their defense was playing just as well and was one of the main reasons for their surprising success last season.

This year the team will come in with relatively the same team that won the AFC North title last season and even though I believe they will be a force to be reckoned with in the AFC Conference, I don’t think they will be able to contend with the Baltimore Ravens in their division.

Baltimore Ravens (last season: 9-7)
Last season was a breath of fresh air for the Baltimore Ravens as they finally saw an offense that could compliment their defense. Not only were the Ravens able to consistently put points on the board, but they also witnessed second year man Joe Flacco turn into a franchise quarterback for Baltimore.

This year the Ravens will come into the season even better than last year as they acquired one key piece to the puzzle in Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin. With Boldin as the focal point of the Ravens offense, Baltimore will almost certainly be getting some much needed recognition as a legitimate title contender.

Our AFC North title prediction: It’ll be the BALTIMORE RAVENS

AFC East: New York Jets knock off New England Patriots as top dogs

Last season was somewhat of a wakeup call for arguably the most successful team in the NFL over the past decade in the New England Patriots. Every single season the Patriots are able to put a competitive football team on the gridiron with a good chance of competing for a Super Bowl title and last season was no exception.

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Even though many people anticipated the New England Patriots getting back to form last season, the team had its fair share of struggles early in the year as Tom Brady was finding it hard to come back from his devastating knee injury.

Despite getting off to a slow start, Brady was able to get back to form after an inspired performance against the Tennessee Titans in which he threw for an NFL record five touchdowns in one quarter. This performance was thought to be a point of resurgence for the Patriots, but even though they went on to win the AFC East, they were knocked out much earlier than expected against the Baltimore Ravens.

Here is a rundown of the AFC East heading into next season:

Miami Dolphins (last season: 7-9)
Last season the Miami Dolphins looked good from time to time as their unique Wildcat offense was still confusing opposing defenses, but after their starting running back Ronnie Brown went down for the season, the Dolphins were basically done for the year as well as they just couldn’t compete with the New York Jets and New England Patriots in the AFC East.

This season the Dolphins could be poised for a breakout year as they will have both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown in the backfield and a huge offensive addition in superstar wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Obviously, Marshall needs a decent quarterback to get him the football, but I believe Chad Henne might be able to turn into a viable option for the Dolphins behind center.

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Buffalo Bills (last season: 6-10)
Coming into last season, the Buffalo Bills thought they had a legitimate shot of competing for a playoff spot in the AFC Conference as they had a promising young quarterback in Trent Edwards, a solid running game led by Marshawn Lynch and a new superstar receiver in Terrell Owens.

The pieces to the puzzle were there and to go along with a possibly potent offense, the Bills defense was pretty good too, but their season started to fall apart as nothing seemed to go right in Buffalo.

Ironically enough, it was T.O. that tore the team apart, but it was simply because the team wasn’t that good. This upcoming season I would expect the same as the hasn’t really made an significant upgrades.

New England Patriots (last season: 10-6, division title)
The New England Patriots are not getting any younger and with every passing season their chances of winning another Super Bowl title starts to decrease. This season the Patriots will come into the year with relatively the same team intact, which is good news, but I don’t think it will be enough to compete with the likes of the New York Jets.

It will be a tight race in the AFC East this season, but unless the Patriots can clinch an AFC Wildcard spot, I really don’t see them making the playoffs this time around.

New York Jets (last season: 9-7)
No team in the NFL last season made more of an improvement with a new head coach and quarterback than the New York Jets. Not only were the Jets able to get all the way to the AFC championship game last year, but they have completely turned around their struggling franchise after having a very disappointing season previously.

With the addition of rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez out of USC and defensive minded head coach Rex Ryan from the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Jets have become one of the most dynamic teams in the league with a very promising future ahead of them.
The New England Patriots might be considered favorites to win the AFC East division, but I am putting my money on the Jets as they are a dominant team on both sides of the football field.

AFC East title prediction: It’ll be the NEW YORK JETS



Here’s a brief rundown of how we see the NFL’s AFC Conference looking just now:


New England Patriots
Tom Brady has visibly slowed down last season but it doesn’t mean that the Patriots aren’t the best in their division. Despite Brady on the downside of his career, New England still have Randy Moss, Wes Walker, a top-notch offensive line and a top ten defense.

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Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins surprisingly have one of the best run-block lines in the league. Imagine if the duo of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown were in their primes – Miami would be the best rushing team in the league.

New York Jets
Mark Sanchez had a solid rookie season and the Jets made the playoffs. Even if it was Rex Ryan’s defense (and crying) that led the Jets to the postseason, Sanchez deserves some credit for not throwing the ball away often.

Do Broncos have depth at QB position, or are they just dense?

Buffalo Bills
QB Trent Edwards made the most out of his offensive line by winning six games but RBs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch can be the difference makers that may help the Bills this season.

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Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are still the top team in their division even if they didn’t make the playoffs last season. Ben Roethlisberger’s absence will affect Pittsburgh in the start of the season but the team’s defense will keep them in the thick of things.

Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals had a great season last year and return with a loaded offense. Their defense is good but still can’t make stops at crucial moments – the only thing stopping them from getting to the next level.

Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens picked up Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth to help out Joe Flacco on offense. Pair that with a tested defense and you have a formula for success.

Cleveland Browns
The Browns suffer at the QB and RB positions and there’s no fixture in sight.


Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are the favorites to win the AFC again but if they don’t get production out of their running backs they’ll end up just like last year – ringless.

Houston Texans
The Texans are one up on the Titans mainly because of Matt Schaub’s experience over Vince Young’s inconsistent career.

Jaguars Receiver Sims-Walker, a star in our firmament.

Tennessee Titans
Vince Young’s performance last season, in which he led the Titans to an 8-2 record once he took the snaps, is promising. Oh and RB Chris Jackson is the best in the league. Yes even better than Adrian Peterson.

Jacksonville Jaguars
WR Mike Sims-Walker and RB Maurice Jones-Drew are the only good things going on down in Jacksonville.


San Diego Chargers
San Diego fell short last year and the departure of the quick declining LaDainian Tomlinson doesn’t help their needs in the back field. Still, the Chargers are still good enough to make it to the Super Bowl.

Denver Broncos
Denver has one of the worst trios of QBs in history: Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, and Tim Tebow. It’s a good thing they still have Knowshon Moreno or else they’d be this year’s Detroit Lions.

Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs have to improve their defense because it looks like their offense is going to take a while to improve.

Oakland Raiders
It’s great that they got rid of JaMarcus Russell. It’s always good when you release a 300-pound, underachieving former number one pick.

Dallas Mavericks are dark horse in race to sign LeBron James

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Before the Dallas Mavericks headed into the NBA playoffs last season, the team had extremely high expectations as they had just clinched the second overall seed in the Western Conference and was thought to be the only team in the West that was capable of taking down the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Unfortunately, in classic Dallas Mavericks fashion, the team just fell apart in the first round of the playoffs and were beaten convincingly beat their division rivals in the San Antonio Spurs.

Even though many people believed that the San Antonio Spurs were over the hill and unable to go far in the playoffs like they usually do, Tim Duncan and company just dominated Mark Cuban’s squad and proved that the Mavs didn’t deserve to be the second seed in the extremely competitive Western Conference.

With yet another early exit in the playoffs after having high expectations of possibly being able to compete for an NBA title, the Dallas Mavericks will almost certainly be on the verge of shaking up their roster once again. Before the NBA trade deadline this past February, the Mavs made some drastic changes by acquiring Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood. This was without a doubt a step in the right direction, but it didn’t help them in the playoffs and now the Mavs may have targeted LeBron James as the next face of the franchise in Dallas.

Obviously, bringing in LeBron James is a stretch to say the least for the Dallas Mavericks, but if King James is ultimately going to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, the best way to make an exit without leaving them high and dry is through a sign-and-trade deal.

There will be no shortage of suitors for LeBron James this summer, but having the two-time NBA MVP playing in Dallas is intriguing, especially if Dirk Nowitzki does end up opting out of his contract.

Even though the NBA season wasn’t even over yet, the Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban already starting stirring the pot as he said he would love to have LeBron in Dallas and a sign-and-trade deal would be ideal for him as it wouldn’t leave the Cleveland Cavaliers high and dry.

As a result of Cuban expressing his interest in LeBron James, he was fined by the league for free agent tampering, but getting fined is nothing new for the outspoken owner.

The frontrunner to sign LeBron James during this NBA offseason is arguably the Chicago Bulls. Many people believed that the Cleveland Cavaliers were the favorite when they were knocked out of the NBA playoffs in the second round by the NBA Finals bound Boston Celtics, but with the recent moves by the Bulls and their ability to sign two big-name free agents to play alongside Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Bulls would be instant title contenders with the signing of LeBron James and either Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire.

New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks will get the first shot at LeBron James

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The NBA free market is rapidly approaching and the league will never look the same as there will almost certainly be some serious wheeling and dealing come July 1st with a lot of big-name free agents potentially signing with other teams.

Even though there are quite a few game changers that will be available on the first of July, LeBron James tops the list of NBA superstars that could be heading elsewhere during this NBA offseason. Along with LeBron, there are plenty of players in the league that will be available who could drastically change the look of an NBA franchise next season.

LeBron James might be on the top of the list, but not far behind him are Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

Although any team in the league would love to have players of their caliber, there are only a handful of teams that will be able to sign these big-name free agents. Money is the key issue this offseason for all the teams involved as there are only a couple of teams that have the ability to sign not just one, but two of these big-name free agents.

The New York Knicks are the one team making the most noise right now as they have already made it clear that they have LeBron James in their sights, but they would also like to get their hands on Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire at the same time.

Unfortunately, LeBron James will have to be the first big-name free agent to sign with a team this summer as the other available NBA superstars have said that they are waiting to see what King James does and whatever he does choose to do will affect their decision.

Lebron, ready to re-animate a lackluster team.

With that being said, all the teams with the cap space will aim directly at LeBron James first before dealing with any other free agents as the team that is able to sign the two-time NBA MVP will drastically improve their chances of signing another big-name free agent like Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson or Amare Stoudemire.

The two teams that will get the first shot at LeBron when he officially becomes a free agent on July 1st are the New Jersey Nets and the New York Knicks.

The New Jersey Nets landing LeBron James is a stretch as they don’t really have the kind of supporting cast that King James will be looking to play alongside, but along with new billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov and new head coach Avery Johnson, LeBron’s close friend Jay-Z will also be involved in the negotiations with the superstar on the first of July.

The next team in line will be the New York Knicks who will send their president Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni to try and convince King James to move his throne to the Big Apple.

So even though the future of LeBron James has been very uncertain over the past two years, we will get an answer sooner rather than later as July 1st is just around the corner.

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