Tuesday, July 19, 2011
AFC North dominant team 2014-16
By James Walker
Truth be told, I don't see one clear-cut dominant team in the AFC North three to five years from now. With Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco still going strong, I predict the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will continue to battle it out and share the spotlight in the division from 2014 to 2016.
In terms of picking which team will be dominant between the two, you can't. It's a toss-up. The Ravens might win the division one year, Pittsburgh the next and so on.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and the Steelers and Ravens have their long-term solutions at the position. Roethlisberger will be 32, an age at which quarterbacks still thrive. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have all done extremely well in their 30s, and there's no indication Roethlisberger can't do the same. Flacco will be 29 in 2014 and still in his prime.
Also, the Ravens and Steelers don't get enough credit for their talented young players. For Pittsburgh, receiver Mike Wallace, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, and linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley are young stars in the making. The same can be said about Ravens tailback Ray Rice, Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and potentially dominant first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith.
With Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert picking players, both teams will continue to add good, young talent in an effort to stay on top.
The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are both starting over. Although both teams have some good young players, predicting the Browns or Bengals to be dominant would be a major risk. Neither team has been consistently dominant for a very long time and, most important, the quarterback position for each is a huge question mark.
Will Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Cleveland's Colt McCoy be starting NFL quarterbacks three years from now? Who knows?
For that reason alone, the future could still be a two-team race between Pittsburgh and Baltimore.