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Monday, July 26, 2010
Examining AFC North power rankings

By James Walker
ESPN.com

ESPN.com unveiled its pre-training camp power rankings Monday, which also includes the debut of your AFC North blogger on the 2010 panel.

Here is how the AFC North rated:

Baltimore Ravens

Walker's vote: No. 5

Cumulative vote: No. 5

Analysis: There is a lot to like about this year's Ravens. The hype has been significant, as Baltimore should be able to match up with most team in terms of overall talent. Currently, the health of the secondary is the team's biggest concern. Safety Ed Reed and cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington are all possibilities for the physically unable to perform list, which would severely hurt depth to start the regular season. Other than that, there are very few holes on this team, which is deserving of its top-five power ranking entering training camp.

Cincinnati Bengals

Walker's vote: No. 10

Cumulative vote: No. 11

Analysis: Although I’m sure some factions of "Bengaldom" believe their team deserves higher placement -- especially with the Ravens in the top five -- I believe this ranking is about right for now. Personally, I had Cincinnati at No. 10, one spot higher than the final vote. But despite a talented team on paper, I think everyone involved agrees the Bengals have some questions about how they finished last season and their year-to-year inconsistencies.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Walker's vote: No. 17

Cumulative vote: No. 19

Analysis: For me, this was the hardest vote to determine of all 32 teams. How do you rank a good team without its star quarterback for the first month of the season? For example, where would you place the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning or the New Orleans Saints without Drew Brees? I feel the Steelers, minus Ben Roethlisberger, are a middle-of-the-pack team. Overall, there's not a lot of faith in backup quarterbacks Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon.

Cleveland Browns

Walker's vote: No. 28

Cumulative vote: No. 28

Analysis: Talent usually prevails in the NFL, and I just don't see a lot of it in Cleveland. I watched this team closely in minicamp, waiting to see some sort of breakthrough. Maybe Jake Delhomme, 35, would discover the fountain of youth and look like a dominant quarterback again. Perhaps a couple receivers would really step up, or a young secondary would be lockdown. I just didn't see any of it in offseason practices, which raises a lot of questions about Cleveland entering training camp.