Why Every Team Won’t Win Super Bowl LVI: AFC North

Why Every Team Won’t Win Super Bowl LVI: AFC North

by March 25, 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.

At the same time, only one team can lift the Lombardi next February. 31 teams will fall short. Here’s why each team will not have what it takes to win the Super Bowl next year.

Let’s continue with the AFC North.

Previous: AFC East

Pittsburgh Steelers

This scenario is fairly simple: Ben Roethlisberger falls off a cliff in the 2021 season. He was teetering on the cliff near the end of the 2020 season, but in this scenario, he falls face-first on the ground. Not wanting to disgrace a legend, Pittsburgh continues to throw Roethlisberger into the fire. Roethlisberger replies by tossing up many interceptions and chalking up many losses for the Steelers. The Steelers end the season with the first losing record in the Roethlisberger era, and they fail to make the playoffs yet again.

Even if the offense is a catastrophe, as seen in 2019, the defense is good enough to win games. However, if Devin Bush does not come back properly from his torn ACL or if the Steelers fail to replace the production from Bud Dupree, the Steelers could slip from their perch as the best defense in the NFL. If the Steelers are say, fifth in the NFL on defense, that may not be enough to compensate if Roethlisberger falls on his face.

Baltimore Ravens

Have you seen Lamar Jackson in the playoffs? While Jackson is one of the best regular-season quarterbacks over the last few years, he has a knack for screwing it up in the playoffs. Even in the game he won against the Tennessee Titans in 2020, Jackson threw a horrendous early interception and was bailed out by his defense stopping Derrick Henry. In 2021, this defensive bail-out doesn’t happen as the Ravens get put in a 14-point hole in the first quarter. The Ravens over-commit to the pass similar to what they did against the Titans in 2019, and it unravels as Jackson is forced to be a hero for Baltimore.

Much of the Heroball can work in the regular season, but playoff teams generally have one or two playmakers that can end a Lamar Jackson drive with an interception or a batted pass on fourth down. While Baltimore is dominant while leading, a quick strike from an opponent could end their season yet again.

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland falls prey to a very talented division as they finish third or even fourth in the AFC North. While the running game is as effective as ever, Baker Mayfield resorts to his 2019 form. Odell Beckham Jr. comes back and causes chaos on the field, decreasing Cleveland’s offensive efficiency. Defensively, the return of Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit does not help a porous secondary as the Browns give away easy victories against teams such as the Bengals.

The rushing offense could be undermined if Wyatt Teller returns to Earth after his superhuman season in 2020. While the remaining pieces of the Cleveland offensive are projected to be very good, all it takes is one weak link for the offensive line to be destroyed.

Similarly, the Browns could be undone by the special teams that have haunted them in the past. A handful of close wins from 2020 flip to close losses and Cleveland misses the playoffs.

Frankly, this is Cleveland. What else do you think will happen?

Cincinnati Bengals

Similar to Cleveland, this is Cincinnati. What do you expect to happen? Joe Burrow is not the second coming of Jesus, and the Bengals could have a mediocre offense at best in 2021. Defensively, the Bengals lost William Jackson and Carl Lawson and could crumple into the worst defense in the NFL. No matter how good Burrow can be, a bottom-tier defense is not one you can win a Super Bowl with.

Cincinnati plays in a tough division with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cleveland simultaneously destroying them over the last few seasons. There is a real chance the Bengals lose all six divisional games. They would require a Herculean effort to make the playoffs through non-divisional games. Dates with the Chiefs, Chargers, Packers, Bears, and Vikings are on the schedule, so the Bengals could be sitting at 11 losses before they blink. Even if the Bengals win a handful of these games, they still have matchups with Denver and Las Vegas that could torpedo Cincinnati’s season.

Are you an optimist? All four of these teams have a chance to win the Lombardi.


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