Divisional rivals. Seething hatred. Cincy vs. Cleveland. The former Browns vs. the current Browns. The Steelers against three losers? The AFC north is a fun division to watch, and you certainly neeed to keep your eyes open.
My oh my, the Ravens. Their quarterback from last year was bad to begin with and retired. Chris Redman is not meant to start on any NFL team, and he shouldn't be on your fantasy team either. Jeff Blake should be starting by week 6 if not sooner. Jamal Lewis was a stud back in 2000. Will he still be after a busted knee and a busted o-line? Not likely. He is worth a mid-round sleeper pick and not much more. People have been telling me how good Brandon Stokley and Travis Taylor are. Unfortunately, they've been telling me that for a couple of years. Neither is consistent enough to play for you. Todd Heap is a nice, late round TE. Someone has to catch the balls that Redman/Blake chucks up. Defensively, their #1 asset is gone. Coordinator Marvin Lewis went to big money Washington. Ray Lewis loved him, and so did I. It hurts the defense more than the lack of depth on the line. Leave them to the waiver wire.
I see the Bengals as having a team that not many are ready to admit will be good. Gus Frerotte has won the starting QB job. That should help some of the other positions out, but it won't help your QB lineup. He'll need a few good games to deserve a spot on your roster. Now Corey Dillon on the other hand, he's just a STUD! The o-line is solid and Dillon has all the tools of a great back. He's a top 6 back. Don't discount him because he wears stripes. Watch Peter Warrick and Michael Westbrook as well. Warrick got corrective lenses this off-season, and is a deadly return man in addition to a receiver. It wasn't too long ago that Westbrook was a top-flight receiver. We'll see if he can get back to his old form. Either can usually be had after the draft on the waiver wire; but don't feel back taking one at the end of your draft. Chad Johnson could be a nice free agent addition in a few weeks as well. You can ignore the TE situation until they show some promise. Defensively, they may be the best team in the division. And that's saying a hell of a lot in this division.
The Browns will also take the NFL by storm. Tim Couch is a quarterback for the future. If he stays healthy, watch for big, big numbers from him this season. He's comfortable with his game now. He will be a starter on your team every week by the end of the year. I would take him as a #2 QB for the beginning. William Green has looked amazing in the pre-season; don't be afraid to draft him as your #2 back. He's got great speed, a quick burst through the line and plays in a way the Butch Davis likes. Everyone knows that Kevin Johnson should benefit from Couch's new found touch. He's a WR you can take in the fourth round and have a nice #2, possible #1. Watch Quincy Morgan. Defenses also know Johnson is Couch's man, and that could free up this receiver with crazy glue hands. He'll be available after your draft is done. TE is a position to forget on the Browns. They don't seem to like to utilize their people there (not to mention that Ricky Dudley has never been anything but a bust). Defensively, I think that you can take the Browns as your #1 defense and not be disappointed.
And now we get to talk about the Steelers. Will they reproduce their season from last year? Kordell Stewart will only be better with not only the coaches and players support, but the fans as well. He's a solid #2 QB. The Bus is starting to have to make more and more stops to get where he's going. But he's still tough to stop. Not a bad reserve RB, he could be your #2 in a pinch. Just make sure to pick up "Famous" Amos Zereoue for your backup. He will have a breakthrough season if the wheels on the bus go flat. Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward are both really good receivers. Unfortunately, only Burress will put up good numbers on your Fantasy team. He'll make a nice #2 and possible #1 receiver this year. Ward should be watched closely. Although he is mostly recovered from his appendectomy, he just doesn't get the red-zone love that he deserves. Mark Bruener is back at TE. I don't know if I would draft him, but he makes their running game a lot stronger. Their defense is the bomb. Enough said, feel free to make them the #1 defense picked in your draft.
I see the Steelers winning the division. If Kordell doesn't get knocked out again. If the Bus and cookie man can keep the ball moving. Otherwise, watch the old Brownies. They've got a good young team, and if not this year, soon, they'll be a power. They'll be happy to kick the Ravens while they're down on the bottom of the division. Cincy will enjoy a better season than you think. They're a danger to everyone they play.