A division of highs and lows, the AFC North contains arguably the best and worst teams in the NFL in the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals.
One’s definitely on Santa’s good list while the other…let’s just they’d be getting coal in their stocking if it were up to me. Then add in the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the two teams responsible for one of the ugliest scenes we’ve seen for a long time in the NFL. They could well both be on the naughty list, too.
Will Santa be bringing them the gifts they’re asking for this Christmas?
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals
This is an easy one. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has written this one in bold, all caps and underlined it three times just in case Santa is even slightly unsure as to what he wants for Christmas.
The Andy Dalton era is over, and the Ryan Finley era never even started. Zac Taylor will be asking Santa for a new QB for Christmas, in the form of Ohio native Joe Burrow. The LSU quarterback has been a revelation in college football this season, a likely Heisman trophy winner and worthy No. 1-overall draft pick.
Burrow is the perfect fit in Zac Taylor’s offense. He’s accurate, athletic and a calm, collected leader on the field. Don’t over think it. This is what the Bengal’s should be asking for Christmas.
AFC North: Cleveland Browns
2019 was supposed to be THE year for the Browns. They’ve been bad…horrible for years. But after a promising 2018 having assembled a talented, young roster and finally finding their franchise QB, 2019 was their year!
Errr…maybe not. The roster in Cleveland is talented. Aside from the Offensive Line, it’s tough to knock what the Browns have built. So what has gone wrong? You’ve got guys swinging helmets at other players. Your QB calling out the medical staff. Your star wide receiver wanting out of town. And your head coach wearing provocative T-Shirts ahead of a rivalry game, only for his team to lose.
Can you ask for a new culture for Christmas? Well, culture is set from the top down and the guy at the top has ultimately not lived up to expectations.
Freddie Kitchens has been poor, was he deserving of the job in the first place? Probably not. As a result, Cleveland should be asking for a new head coach for Christmas. Someone who is a proven leader and can develop a winning culture.
Put Matt Campbell at the top of your Christmas list, he’s from Ohio, he’s just had another winning season at Iowa State. He’s young, he’s innovative and he’s who Cleveland should be asking for this Christmas.
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers biggest need right now is a Quarterback. Big Ben is injured and let’s be honest he’s approaching the end of his career. They drafted Mason Rudolph in 2018 with an eye to the future, they’ve had the chance to get a glimpse into the future this season and they should be scared of what’s coming if they intend to roll with Rudolph.
But the indicators are there that they don’t see a future with Rudolph as the starter, so much so that UDFA Devlin “Duck” Hodges has been installed as the starter now.
However, the Steelers don’t have a first round pick so they likely won’t be in position to draft a top-tier QB. Like a kid who wants a really expensive gift for Christmas, but the family is a bit hard up for cash right now, do they plump for the budget gift in a later round QB? Or do they just save up some money and wait until next year?
If they go down that first route, they could be hoping that a guy like Jacob Eason drops to the second round. He’s a big arm quarterback with some natural gifts but one that still needs some development and refinement. Maybe he falls all the way to the Steelers’ own pick, if not to a position where they’ll be able to trade up to.
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
All of the Ravens’ Christmases have come at once this season. Lamar Jackson is the MVP, give him the trophy now. The defense is elite. The trade for Marcus Peters looks fantastic. The offense is rolling. Mark Andrews is a great, young tight end. Mark Ingram is a stud running back in that Greg Roman system. And Lamar Jackson is racking up a huge medical bill, breaking opposition ankles every week. He’s the most dynamic player and best quarterback in the league right now.
The Ravens look unstoppable. Allow yourself to dream Ravens, go on…put it on top of your Christmas list…a Super Bowl Ring.
I’m sure we’re going to continually hear the old coach speak rhetoric, “We’re just taking one game at a time.” Yet, in the back of their mind, the Ravens know that this is their best shot at a Super Bowl in a long time. That’s why they’ll be asking Santa for a Super Bowl Ring this Christmas.