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Where Will The Browns & Bengals Finish in 2021?
The AFC North is one of the more competitive divisions in football, with four teams who have all had playoff appearances in the last six years. Heading into the new season, the division race once again looks to be a good one, with both the Browns and Bengals hoping to be good enough to end the year on top.
Just a couple of weeks away from training camp, here is a prediction on where Cleveland and Cincinnati will finish in the standings
Cincinnati Bengals - 4th Place
The Bengals are in the middle of a rebuild, having finished in fourth place in the last three seasons. And while they have improved from where they were last year, it’s more than likely that Cincinnati ends up in the last place once again.
Cincy finished last year with one of the worst defenses and offensive lines in football, which played the biggest role in them finishing a sorry 4-11-1. The D did get reinforcements this offseason with the additions of cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and edge rusher Trey Hendrickson, but didn’t really address the o-line save for second-round pick Jackson Carman, who will probably start at one of the guard positions.
If the Bengals are going to move out of the cellar, it will be because of the growth of quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow showed a lot of good in 11 starts but is also coming off of a significant injury that cut his season short. Cincinnati is hoping the addition of first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase, along with a healthy Joe Mixon in the backfield, can help Burrow’s development.
Overall, the Bengals are hurt by the fact that the three teams next to them in the AFC North all made the postseason this past year and should be contenders once again. But it won’t be long before Burrow and company start to make their ascension; it just won’t be in 2021.
Cleveland Browns - 1st Place
The Browns haven’t won a division title since the original franchise won the AFC Central in 1989. But based on a few different factors, I’m predicting that Cleveland will win their first AFC North title this upcoming season.
It’s not hyperbole to say that the Browns may have the best overall roster in the NFL aside from the Chiefs and the Bucs, last season’s Super Bowl finalists. Their biggest changes to a team that went 11-5 include the additions of edge rusher Jadaveon Clowney to flank Myles Garrett, Troy Hill and John Johnson III to the secondary, as well as draft picks Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to further boost the defense.
On the offensive side, which remains relatively unchanged from last season, Baker Mayfield’s continued growth will decide whether they win the division. He has plenty of help, however, as Cleveland’s backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, as well as their offensive line, are the best in the sport. In addition, Odell Beckham Jr. returns as the lead wideout after missing most of 2020 with an injury.
It also helps that the Steelers and Ravens, the two top competitors for the division crown, have the two toughest schedules in the entire league in 2021, while the Browns have the easiest in the division. With an elite roster, a favorable schedule, and the reigning Coach of the Year, Kevin Stefanski, the time is now for the Browns to win their first division title in over 30 years.
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