Now that we’re about a week away from the start of training camp at Heinz Field (that feels so weird to type) and real football is right around the corner, I figured it was a good time to take one final look at my Ranking the Rooms: AFC North summer series here at Steelers Depot.
In the final installment of the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North 2021 edition, I’ll take a look at how all four teams fared in the series and determine who the best team in the division is based on a points system for each position group, based on my initial rankings.
So, for the best team in the position group according to my rankings, I’ll give 4 points. Second place get 3 points, third gets 2 points, and last gets 1 point. I’ll take all the pieces from the series that I did and add them all up to determine who the best team is.
Does that make sense?
Before we get started, here’s one final reminder of how my rankings went:
QB — Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Bengals
RB — Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Bengals
WR — Bengals, Steelers, Browns, Ravens
TE — Ravens, Browns, Steelers, Bengals
OT — Ravens, Browns, Bengals, Steelers iOL — Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Bengals
iDL — Steelers, Bengals, Browns, Ravens
EDGE — Browns, Steelers, Bengals, Ravens OFF-BALL LB — Browns, Steelers, Bengals, Ravens
CB — Ravens, Browns, Bengals, Steelers
S — Steelers, Bengals, Browns, Ravens
Specialists — Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Bengals
Okay, here we go.
1. Cleveland Browns
There is something to be said for being a paper champion, and that’s what the Cleveland Browns are in with the conclusion of my Ranking the Rooms: AFC North series, scoring a division-high 35 points overall.
Cleveland scored an impressive 18 points on offense, adding another 15 points on defense and the 2 points on special teams. The Browns’ offense will be tough to stop in Year 2 under head coach Kevin Stefanski with a dominant ground attack and good pass-catching weapons for Baker Mayfield to work with.
Defensively, the Browns are rebuilding on the fly and look to have a strong defense top to bottom, which could lead to Cleveland winning the AFC North championship.
We obviously have to see how it plays out on the field, but the Browns look really good on paper ahead of the 2021 season.
2. Two-way tie between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers
It feels safe to say that I think the Ravens and Steelers are pretty comparable overall ahead of the 2021 season and are evenly matched top to bottom as the two teams scored 31 points each.
The Ravens scored 18 points offensively, tying the Browns for the top spot on the offensive side of the football, but the issues with Baltimore are defensively at this point as the defensive side of the football has a number of new faces after losing a bunch of talent in the front seven.
Baltimore scored just 8 points on the defensive side of the football, the lowest in the division. That should tell you exactly how I feel about the Ravens on that side of the football, talent-wise. They’re extremely well-coached though, so we’ll see.
As for Pittsburgh, the Steelers scored 13 points on offense but came up large on the defensive side of the football, scoring 15 points defensively, grabbing the top spot at two position groups.
Overall, I would give the Steelers the edge due to the balance, but the Ravens could hide some of their defensive deficiencies with a ball-control offense with Lamar Jackson and a potent rushing attack.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are certainly on the right track, but based on my overall rankings there’s a sizable gap between the top three teams and the Bengals at the moment as Cincinnati scored just 23 points in my rankings, 8 points fewer than second place.
Cincinnati scored just 10 points offensively, 12 points defensively and one point on special teams. However, the Bengals saw the wide receivers claim the top spot in the division at the position, which should give them a boost in years to come with Joe Burrow under center and Joe Mixon in the backfield.
The ranking system and points scored doesn’t mean I think the Bengals are terrible — not by a long shot. I think by 2022 the Bengals are formidable challengers for the division crown, but 2021 could be a rough one for the Bengals, especially in the division.
The Bengals are coming though, and coming strong.