A look at the AFC North heading into the 2016 NFL season, with teams listed in predicted order of finish.
COACH: Mike Tomlin, 10th season (92-52, .639)
LAST SEASON: 10-6, 2nd place
PLAYOFFS: beat Cincinnati, 18-16; lost to Denver, 23-16.
OUTLOOK: Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell will serve a three-game suspension to start the season, a big hit for the offense. But DeAngelo Williams is a capable backup, and Ben Roethlisberger remains near the top of his game. Antonio Brown is an elite receiver, and the Steelers hope Jesse James — can fill in for the recently retired tight end Heath Miller. The defensive front seven is superb, but the Steelers have had injury problems at cornerback. Even so, this is a very well-coached team under Tomlin, and the Steelers should be in the mix for the divisional title and maybe even the Super Bowl.
COACH: John Harbaugh
9th season (77-51, .602)
LAST SEASON: 5-11, 3rd place
OUTLOOK: Joe Flacco returns from a torn ACL, as the Ravens try to re-establish themselves as a playoff contender. Flacco looks like he’ll be just fine, so the Ravens have their most important player nearly at full strength. They are still thin at receiver, with veteran Mike Wallace joining rising young talent Kamar Aiken on the outside. The defense should be decent, especially with pass rusher Terrell Suggs coming back from an Achilles injury.
COACH: Marvin Lewis
14th season (112-92-2, .549)
LAST SEASON: 12-4-0, 1st place
PLAYOFFS: lost to Pittsburgh, 18-16.
OUTLOOK: The Bengals are coming off a fifth consecutive playoff appearance but haven’t won a postseason game in that span. They have been mostly terrific in the regular season behind quarterback Andy Dalton, who was out with a thumb injury in last year’s playoff loss to the Steelers. Dalton is back, and so is his favorite receiver, A.J. Green. But receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are gone, so there could be some growing pains. Cincy’s defense remains very solid, so the Bengals should remain a playoff contender.
COACH: Hue Jackson
LAST SEASON: 3-13, 4th place
OUTLOOK: Another year, another coach. That’s the story in Cleveland. This time, the coach is Jackson, the former Raiders coach who brings his unique brand of optimism to a franchise that has known little else but failure since pro football came back to Cleveland in 1999. Robert Griffin III will try and resurrect his career after flaming out in Washington, but the Browns’ roster is filled with question marks. Last place seems inevitable once again.