For my money, this is the best division in football. 3 of the teams can possibly win the division, and one of the teams is in shambles. I'll start off with a little blurb about each team, and then make 10 predictions for the upcoming year.
Off-the-field antics aside, the Bengals look to surprise some people in 2007. QB Carson Palmer silenced his critics in 2006, going to the Pro Bowl after major knee surgery. WR Chad Johnson had another solid year, and he's promised to be even better this year. Offensively, the Bengals are in good shape; it's the defense that has question marks. Stud linebacker Odell Thurman will miss his second-straight year under suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell. They also lost veterans in safety Kevin "I look exactly like Keanu Reeves" Kaesviharn and cornerback Tory James.
A new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new mascot named Steely McBeam are the only major differences fans will see on the 2007 Steelers. QB Ben Roethlisberger will look to rebound after an injury-and-motorcycle-accident plagued 2006. RB Willie Parker will look to have another big season, after breaking away from Jerome Bettis' shadow last year. The defense has all of the usual suspects, including All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, minus LB Joey Porter, who headed for South Beach after he was released by the team.
I am thoroughly convinced this team overachieved last year. The defense is still great, but they lost one of its biggest contributors in LB Adalius Thomas. I just don't believe in Steve McNair. He showed his age in the postseason last year. With the loss of Jamal Lewis and the addition of Willis McGahee, I think they will rely heavily on the running game, more than they have in the past. A stout defense can only take you so far; it did win them a Super Bowl in 2000, but it hasn't gotten them very deep in the playoffs since.
I feel horrible for Romeo Crennel. He hasn't been given much to work with until now, and it's still going to be a struggle for the Browns. Joe Thomas will certainly help on the offensive line, they have 2 young potential weapons in WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow, and a legitimate RB in Jamal Lewis. But at the most important position on the field, QB, there is a question mark. Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson split time last year, but they added former hometown hero Brady Quinn in the draft. Until Quinn develops, the Browns will be at the bottom of the division.
Now, the ten predictions...
1) Brady Quinn will start less than 5 games in 2007.
2) Romeo Crennel will be, undeservedly, fired at the end of the season.
3) Chad Johnson will make me laugh every Sunday.
4) Carson Palmer will make a run at league MVP.
5) Steve McNair will not start all 16 regular season games.
6) Hines Ward will not lead the Steelers in receiving yards.
7) Ben Roethlisberger will return to his pre-Super Bowl form.
8) Willis McGahee will run for 1200 yards.
9) The Bengals will barely miss the playoffs.
10) The Steelers will win the division.
WARNING: There is a high possibility that none of these predictions will hold true. I accept responsibility for making said predictions, and I leave to you all to rip them to shreds. Thank you.