Let's get this out of the way: Cleveland will not the playoffs. Ok... they will if running back Trent Richardson duplicates Adrian Peterson's 2012 season, the defense plays to the talent level they are capable of, and everyone else in the division beats each other up to where 9 wins clinches the division. Too many ifs for this team. Plus their last playoff appearance was during my first year in the Navy back in 2002. Their last season where they won 10 games was in 2007. Again, while I was in the Navy.
Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh: one these three teams could win the division and it is very likely that all three could make the playoffs. Despite a roster overhaul, the Steelers still have Ben Roethlisberger. If the Steelers are to make the playoffs they are going to need him for the entire season. The last time Roethlisberger was the starter for all of the Steelers 16 games was in their Super Bowl championship season in 2008.
The Bengals are a young team. Despite their faults, somehow the Bengals have made the playoffs the last two seasons... and both times their season ended in Houston. They could make a third trip to the playoffs and make a deep playoff run with quarterback Andy Dalton and newly acquired James Harrison from the Steelers.
The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens will be starting their first season without linebacker Ray Lewis on their roster. Lewis was part of the first draft class of Baltimore Ravens in 1996. He was part of the Ravens championship squad in 2000.
Not only is Lewis gone, but also safety Ed Reed who signed a short-term contract with the Houston Texans.
Even though Baltimore had turnover in their roster specifically on the defensive side of the ball, again I look at who is still on the team. They still have head coach John Harbaugh. Joe Flacco gave probably one of the best post-seasons I have seen in a quarterback statistically since Joe Montana's 1989 post-season. Still can send Ray Rice up the middle.
All right... I'm willing to say this: the AFC North will send not one... not two.... BUT THREE teams to the playoffs this year.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh will slug it out for the AFC North Title with Cincinnati getting the final playoff spot.
Keep an eye on the AFC North this season. This will be one division to watch.