Let’s face it. Until there’s football to be played, we are going to be fed a steady dose of predictions. At least tomorrow we will finally know when the NFL expects its games to be played this year, but that is assuming it will even be possible to have them played at that time.
Everybody’s favorite, Colin Cowherd, spent some time on his show yesterday making predictions about how every team will finish in 2020 relative to their division standings. He starts with the win-loss betting odds as his base and goes off from there.
“Fox Bet believes Baltimore wins, Pittsburgh second, Cleveland third, and Cincinnati fourth” in the AFC North, he said. “I do agree that Baltimore wins, but 10 wins, not 11—more of a target. I think Cleveland finishes in second place, Pittsburgh third, and Cincinnati fourth”.
Why? Well, you know the big question: Ben Roethlisberger. And it’s always a fair question when your franchise quarterback has elbow surgery. You can’t guarantee beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s going to come back and play at a high level.
“My question with Pittsburgh, I don’t know if they got any better. And I don’t know what to expect from 38-year-old Big Ben”, he said. “He has never been an offseason grinder and workout machine like a Tom Brady, a Drew Brees, or a Russell Wilson. That is not his DNA so far. I think he could be back. But again, no OTAs, no camp, will he be rusty?”.
Setting Roethlisberger aside, have the Steelers gotten better? They may not have had a first-round pick, and they lost Javon Hargrave in free agency, but they retained their defense outside of Hargrave. And meanwhile, they added Eric Ebron, Chase Claypool, and Anthony McFarland to Roethlisberger’s weapons stash.
The one question as far as the offense goes is how the retooled offense will take shape, and how it will compare to last season’s, which could have been better, frankly. It could be that the only change is Stefen Wisniewski swapped in for Ramon Foster. If not, Matt Feiler will be at left guard, with Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle.
“The division is significantly better”, Cowherd added. “I think Cleveland ends up finishing second in the division, and is one of the most improved teams, at least from an organizational standpoint in the NFL. Cincinnati, 5-6 wins, kind of feels like tops”.
When it comes to Cleveland, I think there is just a fatigue at this point. How many times has this been the year they would turn things around? Last year was supposed to be the ‘real’ turnaround year. But this year will be the real turnaround year because they have another new head coach, and their wide receivers will be healthy.
Meanwhile, the Steelers should be much healthier than last season, yet even without Roethlisberger, and a myriad of other injury-related setbacks, they still finished two games ahead of the Browns. How much better has Cleveland gotten this year?