Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The Guys You Don't Know (But You Should) AFC North Edition
The Steelers spent the offseason letting go of most of their well known players. The Ravens followed suit. The division has been in existence since 2002 and Pittsburgh and Baltimore have taken the division all but two times. This year seems like it is going to be three with all the losses on these two teams. Between the two, they lost Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, James Harrison, Mike Wallace, Danelle Elerbe, Paul Kruger, Bernard Pollard, Anquan Boldin, Cary Williams, Rashard Mendenhall, Keenan Lewis, Willie Colon, and Will Allen. That is some list of players that now play outside arguably the best rivalry in the NFL. Is this where the Bengals finally take a strangle-hold of a division they have been so close to taking the past two years? Will the Browns take a step forward under new management? We don't know what the future holds, but we do know with all the moving parts there is bound to be a ton of surprises in this division in 2013.
Baltimore Ravens - Bernard Pierce RB
I know what you're saying, there is no way that anyone will take over for Ray Rice, right? Now I am not sitting here saying that Pierce will take over for Rice next year, but I am saying that Pierce will become the most talked about back-up running back in the league. Think Ben Tate of the past two years, and that is what you should see from Pierce in 2013. He had a decent year on limited time in 2012 accumulating 532 yards on 4.9 ypc. This season the Ravens brass are said that they want to get Pierce more involved with their offense. The second year pro out of Temple has shown he has the ability to run in the NFL in his rookie year, now he just has to be consistent. The splits on carries in 2012 were about 75-25 for Rice and Pierce. Expect that to move more towards 60-40 now that they are a legitimate 1-2 punch. The headlines are paying attention to the Joe Flacco contract and the fact that they lost their number one receiver, but they are ignoring the fact that the Ravens may have the best backfield in football. Pierce is quickly looking like a third round steal and is under Baltimore control for the next three years at extremely reasonable numbers. If Pierce can work on his pass catching ability (something Rice excels at) then he would be a total package. The Ravens have a true thunder and lightning possibility here. If Rice ends up getting hurt, then Baltimore is in good hands with Bernard Pierce taking the load.
Cincinnati Bengals - Giovanni Bernard RB
Cleveland Browns - Brandon Weeden QB
Pittsburgh Steelers - Emmanuel Sanders WR
Mike Wallace was supposed to be the clear cut number one receiver on this team, but he was let go for nothing as he signed a new deal with the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers did not blink an eye to his departure. Sanders could also have left to New England as they sent in an offer sheet on him. Since he was a restricted free agent, tSteelers would have received a third round pick for the fourth year player. Ben Roethlisberger was not letting this happen. He went to Pittsburgh brass and said they could not let this guy go. I am trusting the quarterback here and believing that there is something special about this guy. He has shown flashes of playmaking ability last season. He is perfect for Todd Haley's dink and dunk offensive style. He has a healthy quarterback and an improved offensive line. He has his first shot to show that he was capable of being a starter this entire time, as he waited his turn since coming into the league. Thirty-one of his forty-four receptions went for first downs. He knows where he needs to get to in order to help this team. On top of this, Sanders only got a one year contract. He could be playing for a very big contract if he can produce up to the expectations the Steelers set for him. He could join Antonio Brown as teammates who hit 1,000 yards receiving. Sanders will take this season and make it his own. He is completely healthy for the first time in a long time (whether his injuries were real or fake, see his fine against the Bengals last season) and he is going to take the league by storm this season. Everyone in Pittsburgh knows this guy is going to go off, it is time for you guys to jump onto the bandwagon as well.