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NFL Divisional Predictions 2014: The AFC North

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The Ravens bring the AFC North crown back home to Baltimore.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Next up in our 2014 Divisional Prediction series here at Da Chronic is the AFC North, which is one of the harder divisions to predict due to the fact that the weaker teams are getting better and the lack of a true elite team.

1. Baltimore Ravens: 10-6

The Ravens lucked out and drew a relatively easy schedule in 2014.  This will dovetail nicely with having a serviceable offense and once again a very tough defense.  On offense the Ravens will sport a second-tier quarterback in Joe Flacco, Ray Rice at running back, and the newly acquired Steve Smith at receiver.  The defense features Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and first-round draft pick inside linebacker C.J. Mosely, among others.  The AFC North is coming in closer together, but for now the Ravens will come out on top and they will grab the fourth seed in the AFC.

2. Cincinnati Bengals: 9-7

On paper the Bengals look just as good, if not better, than the Ravens do.  The only difference is the Ravens are much more consistent on offense, in my opinion.  They have one of the top playmakers in the game in AJ Green, but I really think Andy Dalton is holding this group back from being one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.  Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap will lead the defense up front and Reggie Nelson will clean up from the secondary.  The Bengals will flirtwith missing the postseason, but they will barely take the fifth seed in the AFC and will do so by a tiebreaker.

3. Cleveland Browns: 7-9

The only thing keeping me from putting the Browns atop this list is Josh Gordon's looming suspension.  One player doesn't make a team, but he was a key cog to this offense and will be drastically missed.  I believe Johnny Manziel will be a star at the next level, but he won't be able to completely overcome his lack of weapons.  The Browns' defense is quietly very impressive, with Paul Kruger, Justin Gilbert, Donte Whitner, and Joe Haden.  One more offseason separates this team from 10-win season.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-9

Up until the last three years or so the Steelers had one of the more stout and consistent rosters in the NFL.  That proved to be a double-edged sword as now it is one of the oldest and production is declining.  The offense will carry some good pieces with Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Big Ben, but the defense isn't very impressive and is once again pretty damn old.  Give this squad a year to season it's younger backups and another offseason to improve its roster.

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Who do you think will win the AFC North?