The AFC North was one of the more embattled divisions in the NFL last year. The Steelers (11-5) and Ravens (8-8) wrestled for sole claim to first place for the better part of the season. Ultimately, the Steelers finished on top, riding a seven-game winning streak into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Bengals (6-9-1) were competitive but hampered by critical injuries, namely to star receiver A.J. Green (hamstring) and tight end Tyler Eifert (back/ankle). The Browns (1-15), however, were utterly disastrous in 2016 but followed up with an impressive free agent and draft haul.
Here’s how the AFC North finished in our final Week 17 report of 2016:
HOW THEY FINISHED
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The Ravens and Bengals registered outstanding Pass Protection scores of 3.28 and 2.76 respectively. However, the Ravens lost right tackle Ricky Wagner (Lions) in free agency while the Bengals saw left tackle Andrew Whitworth (Rams) and guard Kevin Zeitler (Browns) sign elsewhere.
One the other hand, the Browns finished the season with a Pass Protection score of 1.50, second worst among all 32 teams. As a result, they dedicated a portion of their roughly $102 million in cap space to upgrading their offensive line.
Lastly, the Bengals led the division in Point Suppression with a score of 3.13. Only the Patriots (3.15) and Broncos (3.24) scored better in that category in our final 32-team report.
The Browns hired Gregg Williams as their new defensive coordinator. Williams has a track record of fielding extremely tough, physical and tenacious defenses throughout his career. Williams now has a young and talented defensive roster with plenty of untapped potential.
Meanwhile, the Ravens retained offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. The team promoted Mornhinweg to the position in Week 6 after firing Marc Trestman. Most notably, in our Week 6 report, the Ravens ranked 28th in BES Offense. After 11 games under Mornhinweg, they finished the season ranked No. 6.
NOTABLE PLAYER TRANSACTIONS
We’ve maintained that our data can provide a framework of how teams might approach the draft and address needs. Here are the rookies we feel will have the most impact on each team’s weakest area(s) in BES performance:
AFC NORTH BALANCE OF POWER
The Browns, though improved, have too many questions surrounding their quarterback situation and defense to realistically project them as a contender. Therefore, it should be another brutal scrap among the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals for the division title.