AFC North 2022 NFL Preview: Will Ravens re-emerge as powerhouse?

NFL fantasy guru Paul Charchian joins Follow The Money to make the case for J.K. Dobbins to have a monster breakout season, and may even compete for most rushing TDs, also touches on TE Isaiah Likely, who could be a rookie sleeper to keep an eye on.

The NFL is back, and Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about the 32 teams looking to book a trip to Super Bowl LVII.

Kickoff for the 2022 regular season is set for Thursday, Sept. 8 and today we look at the AFC North.


2021 record: 8-9, fourth in AFC North, missed playoffs

Notable roster additions: RB Mike Davis, DT Michael Pierce, S Marcus Williams , CB Kyle Fuller, OT Morgan Moses, DE Brent Urban

Notable roster subtractions: WR Marquise Brown, RB Devonta Freeman, RB Latavius Murray, C Bradley Bozeman, CB Anthony Averett, OLB Pernell McPhee

The good news: The Ravens dealt with a lot of injuries during the 2021 season with the likes of Gus Edwards, Ronnie Stanley and J.K. Dobbins sitting out for the entire season. Dobbins will return to start the season while Edwards remains on the PUP, but when healthy the trio of Dobbins, Edwards and quarterback Lamar Jackson amassed 3,071 rushing yards in 2020, the third-highest total in NFL history, which combats any concerns about Jackson's ability in the air.

Baltimore also returns tight end Mark Andrews who had a stellar season in 2021 including setting the franchise record for most single-season receiving yards, snapping a 25-year-old record of 1,201 receiving yards as he amassed 1,361 yards to end the season. One of Jackson's favourite targets since the two arrived in Baltimore in 2018, Andrews will be another top receiving threat along with 2021 draft pick Rashod Bateman.

The bad news: The 2019 NFL MVP Jackson lost his top receiver in Hollywood Brown after already struggling during the 2021 season - ranking 23rd in passer rating at 87.0 and 22nd in completion percentage at .644. He also threw a career-high 13 interceptions despite missing the final four games of the season with a foot injury. Ronnie Stanley's status is still a question mark on the season, and after the team allowed a franchise-record 57 sacks last season, they will need better protection of Jackson if they want his passing game to improve.

Super Bowl Odds: +2000
Division Title Odds: +140
Wins Total: 10.5 (Over +100/Under -120)


2021 record: 10-7, first in AFC North, beat Raiders, Titans and Chiefs before losing to Los Angeles Rams at Super Bowl LVI

Notable roster additions: T La'el Collins, G Alex Cappa, C Ted Karras, TE Hayden Hurst, S Daxton Hill

Notable roster subtractions: TE C.J. Uzomah, C Trey Hopkins, WR Auden Tate, DT Larry Ogunjobi

The good news: Joe Burrow was arguably the best quarterback to close out the 2021 season, and he will be under center for the Bengals once again. In the final five game stretch of 2021, Burrow averaged 355 yards per game, threw 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and completed 72.3 percent of his passes. He tallied 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last year, good for 4,611 yards, and while the INT number was among the highest in the league, Burrow is still only going into his third year in the league.

Add onto Burrow's already astounding ability through the air the fact his receiving corps that is one of the best in the league. Ja'Marr Chase racked up up 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns while Tee Higgins tallied another 1,091 yards and six touchdowns and Tyler Boyd added 838 yards for five touchdowns for the Bengals last season. They also have a solid ground game in Joe Mixon, who ran for 1,205 yards and a career-high 13 touchdowns last season as the Bengals had one of the best offences in the league.

The bad news: The Bengals offensive line was one of their biggest concerns last season as they allowed Burrow to take 51 sacks during the regular season, and another 19 in four playoff games. Burrow already tore his ACL in 2020 and the Bengals need to protect him better, though the additions of interior lineman in guard Alex Cappa and center Ted Karras should be part of solving the problem. They also had questions in their secondary with players like Eli Apple and Jessie Bates able to play at Pro-Bowl levels one week and give up yards to the Jets' passing offence the next. They have again made upgrades adding Hill as well as returning their starters, but have to be more consistent this season.

Super Bowl Odds: +2200
Division Title Odds: +175
Wins Total: 9.5 (Over -130/Under +110)


2021 record: 8-9, third in AFC North, missed playoffs

Notable roster additions: QB Jacoby Brissett, QB Deshaun Watson, WR Amari Cooper, WR David Bell, K Cade York

Notable roster subtractions: QB Baker Mayfield, QB Case Keenum, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper

The good news: After months of drama surrounding Baker Mayfield, who underwhelmed in Cleveland in 2021 despite playing through an injured shoulder, the Browns have finally figured out their quarterback situation with Deshaun Watson primed to take the starting role after serving his suspension. General manager Andrew Berry also managed to replace the gap of what could have been with Odell Beckham Jr. by acquiring Amari Cooper as a deep threat after amassing 865 yards and eight touchdowns last season for the Cowboys.

Cleveland's defence also showed that while they were slow to build their chemistry, they were electric to close out the season, holding four of their final seven opponents to 16 or fewer points, and did not allow more than 26 points in any of those final seven games. All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, linebacker Anthony Walker, cornerback Denzel Ward, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah all return to the defence that can be one of the top-ranked units in the league this year.

The bad news: Regardless of thoughts on the morality of the Watson trade, the Browns now have to rely on a backup quarterback for 11 games to start the season, and are relying on a backup who is new to the team. Brissett threw for 1,283 yards for five touchdowns and four interceptions with the Dolphins in 2021, and in pre-season has shown limitations in his game that are far below what the Browns would want in a starting quarterback. They also have many new additions at wide receiver that will take time to form chemistry with, and as the quarterback situation is certain to change mid-season, they will have to adjust once again when Watson returns.

Super Bowl Odds: +3000
Division Title Odds: +450
Wins Total: 8.5 (Over +135/Under -160)


2021 record: 9-7-1, second in AFC North, lost in Wild Card round to Kansas City

Notable roster additions: QB Kenny Pickett, QB Mitch Trubisky, WR George Pickens, G James Daniels, OLB Myles Jack, CB Levi Wallace

Notable roster subtractions: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, CB Joe Haden, QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR James Washington, ILB Joe Schobert

The good news: The Steelers own the best edge rusher in the league in T.J. Watt, who tallied 22.5 sacks last season, tying a league record and earning Defensive Player of the Year honours. Pittsburgh rides a streak of five straight seasons of leading the NFL in sacks, and defensive end Cam Heyward, a potential Hall of Famer, added ten of those last season. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick secured highest-paid safety status after recording a career-high 129 tackles last season.

They also added Myles Jack and Larry Ogunjobi to replace holes left by Stephon Tuitt and Joe Schobert, which will be needed after finishing last season dead last in rushing yards allowed per game with 146.1 and average yards per carry with five. The biggest bright spot is having Najee Harris, who rushed for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie year despite playing behind a subpar offensive line. Only Jonathan Taylor carried the ball more than Harris in 2021.

The bad news: With question marks on both sides of the ball, the biggest comes from the team is losing a franchise icon in Ben Roethlisberger. While this gives a chance for a younger, more mobile quarterback to take the reign under center with Mitch Trubisky seemingly getting first crack at it, there is uncertainty in their offence at multiple positions. Wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster departed for Kansas City, and while adding second-round pick George Pickens allows the Steelers to give complement to Diontae Johnson, Schuster recorded 831 yards for a career-high nine touchdowns in 2021.

Super Bowl Odds: +8000
Division Title Odds: +1000
Wins Total: 7.5 (Over -105/Under -115)

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