Here are Adam's AFC North projections and comments:
1) Cleveland - They clearly have the division's best offense at this point. Cleveland needed to add some help to their front-three on defense and they did that with Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. They got badly needed help at ILB with Beau Bell who could start this season. The weakness is clearly at cornerback. Look for them to play in a lot of high scoring games. The prediction here is they'll go 11-5.
2) Pittsburgh - Their offensive line continues to be an issue as we go forward. Last year, the line struggled with consistency from week to week (47 sacks given up). But the offense, overall, should be strong. Defensively, they weren't dominant in any area and this year's version doesn't look to be much better based on personnel moves. Look for another 10-6 season.
3) Baltimore - While they should be able to run the ball well under new OC Cam Cameron, throwing it could be a problem. Neither Troy Smith or Kyle Boller have what it takes to start a full 16-game season which is why rookie Joe Flacco will likely get some starts in before the end of the season. The young offensive line is also a concern. Defensively, they must keep the two starting cornerbacks healthy which was a major problem last year. This looks like an 8-8 team.
4) Cincinnati - What was once a deep group of receivers has been reduced significantly of late. While Cincinnati selected three receivers in this year's draft, none will likely make an impact right away. Their running game is also suspect. Defensively, the pass rush remains an issue as does their run defense. The prediction here is 7-9.
Questions and answer
Question: Insight into salary cap casualties as well as his take on the Cinci situation - just early season noise relative or is this a situation ready to boil over?
Answer: I'm not expecting hardly any cap moves next week as most teams already made them well in advance of the June 2 date.
As for Cincinnati, they have a ton of issues on both sides of the ball. The offensive line, running game, front seven, and secondary all remain problems.
Question: Everyone in Baltimore seems to want to know who's going to start behind center, which is very inriguing because to me the more important question is who's going to start AT center?
Anser: The feeling is Chris Chester will wind up starting at center at the start of the regular season. Jason Brown is better of playing guard. Chester was highly thought of coming out of college at that position.
Question: With the development of the offensive line up in the air (and everyone's dancing position unsure) how much of this will really effect the likelyhood of Flacco getting on the field in the regular season? I find it hard to imagine the coaches wanting to throw him out behind a line that has not gelled yet. Is that the sentiment you're seeing?
Answer: Flacco playing will come down more to the team's record than anything else. If Baltimore is eliminated from the playoff race, Flacco should get some starts in or significant playing time in since the team won't have anything to play for. The hope is that with a few games to go in the season, the young offensive line will have settled in.
Question: What is Adam's take on the owner's stance on the CBA? We've heard all the sides, but what is the inside scuttlebutt on this as Adam makes his contacts? I've heard everything from "no biggie" to "the end of the world as we know it" to "who knows?"
Answer: The owners made a bad deal to begin with (giving up over 59% of the DGR-defined gross revenue) so they know they have to get a better this time around. In the end, I would be shocked if a new CBA isn't completed some time in 2009. There are too many downsides if a new deal isn't struck (no cap for example).
Question: Is Spygate over or is Spector determined to continue on this track? I have not been happy with the stance of the Commissioner Goodell on this. Burning the tapes was one of the most heavy-handed things I have ever seen. What is Adam hearing in his contacts on Spygate? Can things get "bad"?
Answer: While I'm not a fan of government interference, Specter had some good points in his address to the media a few weeks ago. It seems that unless the league agrees to an independent council (and it doesn't appear that they will), this situation is finished.
Question: Adam, who are your "sleeper" teams that could surprise everyone and make a run for the playoffs?
Answer: Arizona, because the NFC West is so weak, could make a run. They were 8-8 last season. The key for them is for Matt Leinart to finally play consistently good football.
Question: Which underachieving teams do you think will rebound quickly and have a turnaround year?
Answer: Philadelphia was only 8-8 last year but they should bounce back and gain a wildcard spot after doing well with offseason moves (free agency/draft).
Minnesota finally got a proven pass rusher in Jared Allen and they got a deep threat for their passing game in Bernard Berrian. So two needs were addressed. It comes down to consistent play from the quarterback position for this team.
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