Well kids, it has been a fun summer off for Don and I. I caught up on some reading, played some golf, had my best fantasy baseball season ever and got the pleasure of being at an airport when a plane crashed on the runway. Don spent his summer getting into the routine of his hormone replacement therapy. So, a lot of fun was had by all. We decided to bring you ten minutes of entertainment though, in the form of 5 For Flying AFC North Special Edition!
Matt: Now Don, you are a Bengals fan. I am a Browns fan. This gives us the chance to disagree on just about everything. In the spirit of that, let’s talk about which player in the division you would most like to have on your team. And let’s not just pick superstars like AJ Green or Ray Rice. Everyone would like to have those guys. Pick a player that you think makes your team better that might actually be attainable. For me, it’s Vontaze Burfict. I was a huge fan of his at ASU, and really, really wanted the Browns to draft him. I love D’Qwell Jackson, but Burfict brings a nastiness (both good and bad) to the field that the browns haven’t had in a very long time. Attitude means something in football, especially on defense, and the Browns could use a bit of “nastiness”. He may not be a Pro Bowl caliber LB, but he can bring something to the table that goes beyond box score.
Don: Can I have Haloti Ngata and have the best defensive line in the history of football? It’s tough to NOT pick superstars like AJ Green, Ray Rice, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, etc. Ngata is a beast, but we already have Geno Atkins. Terrell Suggs is older, but still great. I have always loved that Ravens defense. It seems like every year the pundits say, “This defense is way too old” and yet they come back stronger and better than ever. On one hand it’s frustrating because they are on the Bengals’ division. On the other hand it’s hilarious because they are the old Cleveland Browns and it pisses their fans off. Tears are so delicious!
Matt: In this same vein, which player in the American Football Conference North division of the National Football League would you least like to have on your team? It’s easy to say Roethlisberger, Harrison, PacMan Jones, or the recently departed Ray Lewis because of their off-field issues. These are such easy picks, I’m going to go in a different direction (although, I don’t know if I could stand to watch Ben run around the pocket for 8 seconds before getting hammered from behind because he thinks he can make an amazing play every time he drops back). For me, the choice here comes down to Troy Polamalu and Terrell Suggs. Both guys are past their prime and injury prone, but I go with TP. He hasn’t been very good in several years, mostly due to injuries (but he is getting old). He insists on letting his hair flop around rather than braid it to keep it from being pulled out. You have to listen to announcers slobber over him like he is still some kind of Superman/Wolverine mutant offspring. I don’t want to let Steelers fans off the hook here, either. Wake up guys, the man is 32 years old, has played 144 games in the NFL (including playoffs), has clearly lost a step, and was never good in deep pass coverage in the first place. Just let the man go out gracefully, instead of like the senile old uncle who you refuse to put it a home.
Don: I would love to have Roethlisberger as my QB. The guy is a winner, both on and off the field. Look at his wife! All joking aside, I do agree with you on the off-the-field issues. It’s tough for me to say what guy I WOULDN’T want on my team because if they are good, I want them. Troy is over-the-hill but still probably better than any safety the Bengals and Browns have right now. To piss you off, I’ll pick Joe Thomas. EASILY one of the most overrated offensive lineman out there. His pro bowl selections are based simply off his name. He is unlikable and from what I’ve heard, a horrible teammate. He doesn’t want to be in Cleveland but they can’t trade him because of his absurd contract. I’m actually quite shocked he is still on the Browns. They already let their 2 best players go (Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson). Why not make it your top 3?
Matt: Since I am pretty sure we both feel as though our teams are on the upswing, let’s decide who will have the biggest letdown this year. According to SportsBook, the Ravens O/U is 8.5, with the money coming in slightly more on the over. Pittsburgh is at 9.5, with the money being bet heavily on the under. The Ravens lost Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Anquan Bolden, Dennis Pitta (injury), and Ray Lewis’ legal team. That’s quite a bit. The Steelers didn’t suffer early as many departures, but have gotten old in a hurry. Mike Wallace and James Harrison may have been a bit overrated as Steelers, but they had roles that they played well, while not having replacements with nearly as much talent. I think we see the worst Steelers season in a while. Ben is always good to miss a couple of games, their best RB will miss the first 6+ weeks, and frankly, this team doesn’t have nearly as much talent as you would expect. Unless these guys can bring in The Rock (and his team of “medical professionals), these guys aren’t going to get better in their 30’s. The best part about this will be all the petulant and ungrateful Steelers fans calling for Mike Tomlin’s head if they fail to win 10 games. Because that’s what Steelers fans do.
Don: At a quick glance at the schedules, I have the Ravens at 10-6 and the Steelers at 10-6. The Ravens and Steelers, like the Patriots, just don’t lose. Sure you will have the occasional letdown season, but these are 2 of the best run organizations in football and until they show me that they can go 6-10, 7-9, I am not taking them to finish anything lower than a 9-7 record. God, I feel dirty.
Matt: So who’s it going to come down to? This is going to be a tightly contested division. I have a feeling the win totals will be closer in this division than any other. Games against the Bills and Jets should be nice breathers for each team. In the end, though, I think the win totals shake out like this: Bengals 10, Ravens 9, Browns 7, and Steelers 6. That’s right, I think the Browns finish ahead of the Steelers this year. Brandon Weeden won’t be completely useless, and the defense will have a good pass rush and be top 10-12 in the National Football League. If Trent Richardson gets hurt, forget I ever said this. How about you Donny? You think the Benagls make the leap?
Don: It all comes down to the out of division games because I think the 4 teams will tie with division records. That’s right, tie. These teams all know each other too well and are too close together (except for the Browns). Despite the Browns being the worst of the teams, it is still tough to play in Cleveland. I see the teams going 3-3 in the divisions. The good news is that I think Cincy, Pitts, and Baltimore will go 5-0 against the Vikings, Lions, Jets, Bills, and Dolphins. I see the Browns going either 3-2 or 4-1. As for who wins…it really depends on the Bengals. IF they can get out of those first 5 games at 2-3, they win 10 games. The optimist in me thinks the Bengals can go 3-2, probably 4-1. At Chicago is a tough game and a toss-up. I think they beat Pittsburgh at home on MNF. They will lose at Cleveland because they always lose at Cleveland. Home games with Green Bay and New England (who I have been told by many people…cough…ADAM!!!…cough) that those two teams are overrated. But hey, we’ll see. I am going Bengals at 11-5, Ravens and Steelers at 10-6, and the Browns at 7-9. Not bad for a division!
Matt Let’s sneak some NFL predictions in here, since nobody is reading anyway. For the ROY awards, I will take Jarvis Jones and…Eddie Lacy? (this is a crappy group of offensive rookies. I actually had to look up last years draft to figure out who to pick) I like Luke Kuechly for DPOY, and Aaron Rodgers for OPOY and MVP. I’ll Take HOU (1 seed), CIN, NE, and DEN to win their divisions (I think Denver takes the AFC West with 9 wins. This team isn’t nearly as good as everyone thinks, especially without Von MIller for 6 games). In the NFC, give me SEA, NO (1 Seed), PHI, and GB for division winners. Wild Cards go to BAL and i guess KC in the AFC, and SF and ATL in the NFC. GB over NO in the NFC title game. HOU over CIN in the AFC title game. GB wins the Super Bowl thanks to having a warm body to hand the ball off to for the first time in years. And just because I like to mess with Blackburn, I think the Giants go 7-9 and finish 3rd in the NFC East. Their defense just isn’t what it used to be, and David WIlson has as much trouble holding onto the ball as I do on Wing Night.
Don: I honestly haven’t looked at any of the rookies, so I can’t make any picks for ROY. I do like Jarvis Jones so I’ll agree with you on that. A lot of people are picking Lacy too. For POYs, I will go different from you (even though I agree Rodgers is the best). I think Matt Ryan will have an awesome year and since their division sucks ass, I can’t see the Texans’ JJ Watt not becoming a back-to-back defensive POY. AFC division winners are NE, CIN, HOU, DEN (#1 seed) with PIT and BAL getting the wild cards. NFC division winners are NYG, GB, ATL (#1 seed), SEA with SF and NO getting the wild cards. I am going Denver over Atlanta in the Super Bowl.
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Lastly, I’m sure Don and I will be tweeting on Sunday’s during the Browns and Bengals games. If you would like to follow along, Don is @5forflying (I denote if the tweet is mine) and I am @Conley76. If this all goes horribly wrong, this post will be deleted quicker than the evidence when the cops show up at Blackburn’s door every year when he posts the Women’s Soccer post.