How Every Team Can Win Super Bowl LVI: AFC Northby Ryan Potts March 16, 2021 2 comments
As free agency and the draft approach, every team has some level of excitement. Some teams are looking to contend in 2021. Others only want to move in the right direction. However, the NFL is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season.
With as volatile as football can be, the smallest of breaks could launch a Super Bowl run. Even the 1-15 Jaguars could position themselves to be a contender. Unlikely? Sure, but football is unpredictable for a reason. There is a path for all 32 teams to win Super Bowl LVI.
Let’s continue with the AFC North. AFC East
In the 2021 NFL draft, Pittsburgh takes a look at Najee Harris with their first-round pick. Moving into Day 2, they bolster the offensive line with selections such as Trey Smith from Tennessee or Creed Humphrey from Oklahoma. As long as the Steelers do not have a catastrophic free agency, they should be positioned to compete again in the AFC North. With a stronger rushing attack with Harris and an improved interior offensive line, the Steelers could be a legitimate 12-win team. The 2020 team ran out of gas late in the season. Harris could propel the Steelers to a strong offense for the entire season.
The defense will still be as elite as ever as T.J. Watt finally wins a Defensive Player of the Year Award and Minkah Fitzpatrick maintains his All-Pro form. However, the key will be Harris as he unleashes a run for the ages through the playoffs, a la Terrell Davis. With a dominant rushing attack and elite defense, the Steelers could roll to their seventh Lombardi trophy.
Baltimore has been a contender the last two seasons, but they run into issues in the playoffs. In the 2021 playoffs, the Ravens punch their opponents in the mouth first and build up big leads. With the lead, most teams cannot stop the devastating rushing attack of Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, and J.K. Dobbins. If the Ravens don’t dig themselves into early holes as they have in their previous playoff appearances, Baltimore could run their way to their third Lombardi as a team.
The Ravens could pick up a superstar wide receiver that could help increase the efficiency of the passing attack. While the likes of Allen Robinson (via trade) or Kenny Golladay may not increase the total volume of passing attempts in Baltimore, they would increase the efficiency as those players are fundamentally better at football than the likes of Willie Snead. If Marquise Brown slides into the No.2 role, he could be unleashed as a game-breaking deep weapon. The Ravens will have a steady defense regardless of the personnel, but someone like Shaquil Barrett wouldn’t hurt to add.
Baker Mayfield takes another step into being an elite NFL quarterback. Additionally, the offensive line stays together and paves the way for a league-leading rushing attack from Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The return of Odell Beckham adds a new layer to the offense as the Browns ascend to being one of the most unstoppable offenses in the NFL. Defensively, Myles Garrett has a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season, and the Browns land in the middle of the pack defensively. In the playoffs, the Browns host several playoff games before securing a clutch victory at Arrowhead. In the Super Bowl, the Browns run over their opponent. The city of Cleveland celebrates its first football championship since 1964.
If there is any progression to the mean for the secondary, the Browns could be a force to be reckoned with offensively and defensively. Early-round picks Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit will return in 2021 to help out star Denzel Ward.
Joe Burrow continues the legacy of the likes of Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes, and Jackson to explode in his second season. With a newly revamped offensive line, either through the draft or free agency, Burrow does not risk another season-ending injury. Even if the Bengals do not pick up a weapon such as Ja’Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts on draft day, they have plenty of weapons to utilize moving forward. Joe Mixon will return and provide some stability on the ground while the likes of Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins explode on the outside.
Defensively, the Bengals are a mess. However, if Burrow is as good as Mahomes was in Mahomes’ sophomore season, it may not matter until the playoffs. Even then, Cincinnati has a slew of talented players defensively that could grow through free agency and the draft. Jessie Bates could have another All-Pro caliber season and even blossom into a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. If any member of the front seven breaks out into a reliable star, the Bengals could be well on their way to their first Lombardi trophy.