Lamar Jackson’s intensified assault on the Baltimore Ravens, Joe Burrow’s return to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns’ constant push for the playoffs, potentially Ben Rotlisberger’s last year in Pittsburgh. Sky Sports NFL announces AFC North ahead of the new season.
Talk time is almost over and the 2021 NFL season is just around the corner. And as we get closer to the start of the game, the Sky Sports NFL writers break down all eight divisions, from key players to the biggest acquisitions.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the applicants – continuing AFC North.
Main coach: John Harbaugh
Key person: While he is there, the Ravens attack will act to the tune Lamar Jackson, who led a fast-paced NFL ranked # 1 attack with 1,005 yards for nine touchdowns in 2020 and took more strides as a pocket passer in Greg Roman’s circuit before knocking the playoff monkey off his back with his first postseason win of his career. When asked this summer if he believed this would be the year his defenses worked, Jackson replied, “I doubt it.”
The departure of pass rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakue also requires the 34-year-old’s experience. Calais Campbell and 32 year old Justin Houston to set an extraordinary tone while raising the level of expectations facing half year old midfielder Patrick Queen.
Major additions: We mentioned Houston above; the former Indianapolis midfielder Colts was recently compared to Jedi Master Yoda from the Star Wars movie franchise in the first round of 2021. Odafe Ove, whose athleticism and rough technique were taken under the wing of the veteran.
The Ravens also gifted Jackson with new weapons to add to Marquis Brown, Mark Andrews, Devin Duvern, and Miles Boykin in the first round reception. Rashod Bateman, whose progress in camp has been slowed by injury, and former Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl champion Sammy Watkins. On top of that, they’ve revamped a physically huge line of attack, including the veterans. Alejandro Villanueva and Kevin Zeitler along with the third-round rookie defender Ben Cleveland.
Last season: Baltimore finished 11-5 and second in the division to the Pittsburgh Steelers after winning five of their first six games, one defeat to overwhelming teams, before losing four of five mid-campaign. This included the Steelers 19-14 defeat, during which the Ravens were missing 18 players due to the COVID outbreak, which included Jackson, Campbell, Andrews and runners Mark Ingram and J.C. Dobbins missing.
Five straight wins ended the campaign, including the 47-42 thriller against the Cleveland Browns in Week 14, securing the Crows a playoff spot. Jackson led the team to his first postseason win since 2014-15 and his first 20-13 win over the Tennessee Titans on the Wild Card weekend before being intercepted in the final zone for pick six and then forced to retire with concussion in their defeat in the 17-3 division round to the Buffalo Bills.