Today we will take a look at another couple of teams in the AFC North, the Steelers and Ravens.
The Ravens are the favorite to win the division (+115), while the Steelers (+400) find themselves in unusual territory as being picked to finish behind both the Ravens and Browns (+140).
Let’s take a look at how both teams finished up in 2020, and how the project to do in 2021:
The 2020 Ravens showed flashes of dominance with their running game, but struggled with their air attack as they finished 11-5 in the competitive AFC North.
Lavar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins led an impressive running attack that led the NFL with 3071 combined rushing yards. Jackson struggled in the air by only throwing for 2,757 yards and teams started to make adjustments as the year went on by crowding the box and making Jackson beat them with his arm.
The Ravens finished second in the division at 11-5 and faced the Titans in the first round where they got revenge after their first round loss in 2019. Lavar Jackson showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season, but his inconsistency was on display in the divisional round as the Ravens were dominated by the Bills 17-3.
The Ravens have been a fun team to watch over the last few seasons, but they need to develop their air attack if they want to be serious contenders in the pass-happy AFC. There will be plenty of pressure on Jackson this year to show improvement in the passing game or the Ravens could be looking to go in another direction at QB in 2022.
Dobbins put up 805 yards and averaged 6 ypc in his first season and should have a monster year in 2021 and help take pressure off Jackson and give him more time in the pocket.
The Ravens should be better in 2021, but they should struggle to keep up with the explosive offenses from teams like the Browns, Bills, and Chiefs should they make it into the playoffs.
Record Prediction: 10-7, First Round Playoff Loss
The 2020 Steelers rebounded from a disastrous 2019 to finish 12-4 as Ben Roethlisberger bounced back from elbow surgery and showed signs of life after being written off by most media sources.
The Steelers started the season 11-0 and were the surprise of the league before fading down the stretch and losing four of their last five games.
The Steelers hosted the Browns in the first round as heavy favorites, but the defense was torched and gave up 48 points, 263 rushing yards, and Roethliserger threw four picks as the Browns eliminated the Steelers with a 48-37 win.
Roethlisberger is a year older and the Steelers have the toughest schedule in the league this season so they will have their work cut out for them in 2021. The expectations are high as usual in Pittsburgh and they made some big moves this offseason to take one more shot at the Lombardi with Big Ben under center.
The AFC will be too tough for the Steelers to make a major impact this year and they will be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Najee Harris, RB
Pat Freiermuth, TE
Kendrick Green, OL
Dan Moore, OL
2021 Prediction: 8-9