Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Crystal Balls: Ben Roethlisberger's Pittsburgh Steelers triumphant

 

The best AFC North quarterback plays in Pittsburgh. Little surprise the Steelers dominate an average division, as it seems our crystal balls finally agree. Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate in part two of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.

[Part one - Steelers dominate AFC North]

 

TODD:

While you seem to be wallowing in the middle on this division, I feel strongly about the extremes here. Cleveland is going to finish last and comfortably. It may not even reach the four-win total of a season ago. Playing Jacksonville and Oakland consecutively starting in week 7, the Browns may be playing for head-to-head advantages (or disadvantages depending on how you look at it) for the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

A brutal early schedule could lead to an early QB switch to Manziel and a loss of confidence for both men. After the obligatory Ben Tate injury, the offense may collapse in on itself unless Gordon is allowed to play a few contests.

The Baltimore Ravens will be superior to Cleveland, like last season, but not good enough to challenge for a playoff berth, like last season. The defense is still recovering from its elite years passing by and all the old vets moving on. The young guys are being sprinkled in but not enough to get this unit into the top third of the league yet. And I’m worried about Joe Flacco’s long-term viability. Sure, he had that amazing Super Bowl run, and they paid him handsomely for it. But otherwise, he’s been Baltimore’s version of Andy Dalton.

The two are actually quite similar in terms of regular-season production and yacht-buying ability. Career completion percentage is 60.2 for Flacco and 60.9 for Dalton; Yards per attempt is 6.9 for Flacco and 7.0 for Dalton; Quarterback rating is 83.7 for Flacco and 85.7 for Dalton.

Which I guess is why I love Pittsburgh to win this division in 2014. Ben Roethlisberger has always seemed considerably better than these guys (in case you’re curious: 63.3 completion percentage, 7.8 yards per attempt and 92.6 QB rating) and done it with less help around him. There are similar question marks on the Steelers’ offense, especially considering the recent news surrounding their top running backs. The defense is also in the same boat as Baltimore: a smattering of young guys attempting to bring a previously elite group back to stardom.

If all the quarterbacks were swapped around in the AFC North, I doubt I would pick Pittsburgh to win it. But they’re not. Big Ben is the best of the bunch, and it’s not particularly close. A similar outcome will transpire in the division standings.

 

DAN:

It amuses me to read such harsh team criticism, especially in terms of what might happen. But alas, we have finally come to an agreement on an NFL division. Or at least as close to an agreement as we’re likely to get. My NFL crystal balls are much more hopeful and positive than your charred black balls of defeat. Either way, Big Ben leads Pittsburgh to another division title while Cleveland continues to wave its white flag.

I didn’t come right out and say it in part one, but I will now. The AFC North is not getting a wildcard berth. I’m fairly certain one will fall to the AFC East, while I know you vehemently disagree. But both of us know the North is not getting either of the two coveted spots. Joe Flacco is not enough to lift Baltimore (he kind of already did once). Andy Dalton is not enough to lift Cincinnati. Johnny Manziel probably has enough to lift Cleveland to the playoffs at least once, but it won’t be this season. Another top five draft pick and a year of experience under his belt should do wonders for Johnny come 2015.

We are in 2014 and the only dominant quarterback in the AFC North is Big Ben. I’m not one to argue with numbers and facts. You stated it perfectly. Ben is better in every major QB category. I worry about his ability to last the entire season if Pittsburgh’s running game gets decimated by suspension. Otherwise, Antonio Brown has been getting better year after year at the wideout position. He is going to have a monster season and simply put, the NFL is a better place when Pittsburgh is on top.

I love the notion of a quarterback swap by the way. My mind is racing with visions of Big Ben playing for Cleveland or Baltimore this season. Andy Dalton on the Steelers? I don’t see a true lopsided swap here. No matter where Big Ben falls, his team is now the best team in the North.
 

[If you missed Part one - Steelers dominate AFC North]

Tags: 2014 NFL Predictions AFC North Andy Dalton Baltimore Ravens Ben Roethlisberger Cincinnati Bengals Cleveland Browns Joe Flacco Johnny Manziel NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

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