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Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs away from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor (97) in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs away from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor (97) in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Pittsburgh.|Don Wright | Associated Press

NFL Preview: Mims dissects the AFC North and picks their first 7 games

Robert Mims

Robert Mims

The AFC North is a good division to forecast. Some new faces in new places. A new head coach in the Queen City. Strong defense is still a common thread. Take notice that I give a projection of what I think the teams record will be during the 1st seven games. We can look back after week 7 and see how well I did. And away we go!

1) Steelers – Pittsburgh is going to sit on top with Ben Roethlisberger leading the way. Gone are two of the top position players in football in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. Gone are two locker room distractions that did not want to play for Steeler Nation any longer. Big Ben will have Juju Smith-Schuster as his go to guy. James Conner will gain over 1,000 yards this year and will catch 65 balls. If Ben can stay healthy, he will get his 30 touchdowns. Steelers converted 73.5% of all red zone possessions into touchdowns last year. They take the division and return to the playoffs. Record after 1st seven games is 5-2. Losses to Patriots and Chargers.

2) Browns – Cleveland won 5 of their last seven closing out 2018. Then they add Odell Beckham Jr. That should take them to 10 wins and the playoffs. Baker Mayfield was my breakout fantasy QB and he will have an outstanding year. Jarvis Landry and Kareem Hunt will make this an explosive offense. On defensive they can put pressure on opposing Qbs with their front 4. Browns first half of the season is a difficult schedule. The record for the 1st seven games is 4-3. Losses to the Rams. Ravens and Patriots.

3) Ravens – Baltimore will have a unique offense led by QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson is threat as runner and must be accounted for. He must prove he can make the proper reads from the pocket and make opposing teams fear his arm. The Ravens were one of two teams that had a top ten offense and defense. The other team with that distinction was the Steelers. Baltimore has the most accurate field goal kicker in Justin Tucker. They converted 20.1 % of their offensive drives into field goals. They led the NFL in total defense and were second in scoring defense. Record after 1st seven games is 4-3. Losses to Chiefs, Steelers and Seahawks. All these games are on the road.

4) Bengals – Cincy will finish last. No Marvin Lewis but same old Bengals. Never play well when the game is on in prime time or in the playoffs. A.J. Green is injured already. They have weapons but if Andy Dalton is the QB they will not make significant headway. Their defensive secondary and defensive line are the strengths of the team. Not enough to do any damage. Record after 1st seven games is 1-6. They win against Arizona. They are in a bad spot against Steelers on September 30th on Monday Night Football.

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