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AFC North to Produce Sub .500 Champion???

Postby No l Gravity l » Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:37 am

http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/vi ... p?t=433766

One of the most compelling arguments against expanding the NFL playoffs from 12 teams is that having 14 or 16 teams in the postseason could result in a sub-.500 squad qualifying for the Super Bowl tournament.

Click here to find out more!
There's a chance, however, that it could happen in 2008 -- under the current system.

Each of the AFC North teams -- Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers -- will play each of the teams of the AFC South, which sent three teams (Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans) to the 2007 playoffs. And each of the AFC North teams will play all the teams of the NFC East, which sent three teams (Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and New York Giants) to the playoffs last season as well.

That's half the entire schedule -- and emerging from those eight games with a 4-4 record figures to be the best outcome possible for any of the AFC North teams.

The question then becomes whether any of the AFC North teams can dominate in the home-and-home round-robin portion of the schedule. Last year, it was a 5-1 division mark that, coupled with a mediocre 5-5 record in their other 10 games, allowed the Steelers to edge out the Browns via a tiebreaker.

This year, it's anyone's guess as to whether any one team can do better than 3-3 in the six divisional games.

It's more interesting because even the supposedly good teams in the AFC North have flaws and the supposedly bad teams have potential.

The Browns are the trendy pick to win the AFC North, but the expectations and pressure could make it difficult for Cleveland to improve on last year's "close but no dog bone" effort. The Browns start the season with a game against the Cowboys and then one each against the AFC North rivals.

We'll know by October whether the Browns can succeed while waving the flag of front-runner.

The Steelers won't give up their title quietly, but they haven't done much in the offseason to improve. Their offensive line is going to be a major problem. And if the Steelers can't score or win the field position tug of war, more stress will be placed on an aging defense.

On the surface, the Bengals seem to be in disarray. However, if new coordinator Mike Zimmer gets control of a porous defense, the team could be far more competitive in '08. If the Bengals get off to a quick start in September -- minimizing the chances of a Chad Johnson meltdown -- they could keep things close in the division.

Then there are the Ravens. With low expectations and a high likelihood of being overlooked by opponents, the team with an energetic and respected new coach, John Harbaugh, could stir things up. Just two seasons ago, Baltimore was 13-3. Sure, the roster has undergone some changes, but there's enough left for the Ravens to be competitive.

The kicker in the AFC North could be the two remaining games on the schedule:

• The Steelers, by virtue of winning the division, will play the Patriots (16-0 last year) and Chargers (11-5). Ouch.
• The Browns get the Bills (7-9) and Broncos (7-9).
• The Bengals play the Jets (4-12) and Chiefs (4-12).
• And the Ravens face the Dolphins (1-15) and Raiders (4-12).

Whether the Steelers, Browns, Bengals or Ravens can get to .500 comes back to those eight games against the AFC South and NFC East. A uniform failure by the AFC North's squads in those eight games could lead to the first 7-9 division winner in league history. And if the AFC North champion finishes 8-8, it'll be only the second time that a .500 team has won a division. (It happened in 1985, when the Browns won the old AFC Central.)

Regardless of who wins the division, don't expect to see double-digit wins. And, for the three runners-up, don't be surprised to see each have double-digit losses.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and writes two columns a week for Sporting News.

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Re: AFC North to Produce Sub .500 Champion???

Postby Nel » Wed Jul 16, 2008 12:20 am

I have been a Steelers fan for more than 40 years.

But, I don't see the Steelers winning the division this year, unfortunately. But I do not buy the sub-.500 argument for the division winner in the posted news article. I see us in second place, at .500.

My main reason is that I don't like our offensive line, at all.

I also don't trust Tomlin very much yet; he was too quiet last year, I hope he steps it up this year.

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Re: AFC North to Produce Sub .500 Champion???

Postby trenches » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:50 pm

The division will be tough due to the out of division schedule but I don't see a sub-500 division champ. Although not impossible, that scenario is very unlikely due to parity, hot streaks, etc. that play out each season. I can envision a 9-7 winner though...

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Re: AFC North to Produce Sub .500 Champion???

Postby Stillustronic » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:51 pm

The Sporting News has been anti Steelers since I first picked up their rag in 95, when they were outraged we went to the SB on what they say was an illegal Steward TD, (though they overlooked the blatant pass interference earlier). I haven't referenced them since.

Just twice a .500 team went to the post season (non strike years) and none were division winners, more a product of the AFC dominance over the NFC at the time. Giants and Rams 06 and 04, though the Giants had a competitive division. The conference disparity is fading, as last season the NFC east bottom team finished 8-8, and the North 7-9, coincidentally the AFC South bottom was also 8-8.

The story line wrote itself and the Sporting News jumped all over it, not surprisingly.

I don't see fierce competition within our division, so I don't see us knocking each other down.

post edit:
In 2002, the worst record to make the playoffs was 9-7. The last time a postseason qualifier was at .500 was Dallas and Detroit in 1999. Since 1990, when the league went to three wild-card entries, two other teams made it at 8-8: the Saints in '90 and the Jets in '91.


The Cleveland Browns hold the dubious distinction of being the only sub .500 team to qualify for the expanded, strike shortened 82 playoffs with a 4-5 record.

Also note his qualifying statement;

The question then becomes whether any of the AFC North teams can dominate in the home-and-home round-robin portion of the schedule. Last year, it was a 5-1 division mark that, coupled with a mediocre 5-5 record in their other 10 games, allowed the Steelers to edge out the Browns via a tiebreaker.


The division was clinched before the final, division, starter resting, game, which made a possible sweep a 5-1 division record. Strawman point.

I just can't let this go, he goes on to say;
This year, it's anyone's guess as to whether any one team can do better than 3-3 in the six divisional games.

It's more interesting because even the supposedly good teams in the AFC North have flaws and the supposedly bad teams have potential.

The Browns are the trendy pick to win the AFC North


The guy sounds like he doesn't watch the NFL, (or does the usual off season attention whoring article), because every year there are surprises, and unexpected turn of fates. The only staple statement I make this time of year is that there will be no winless or undefeated team, so chill the champagne Dolphins, but it was close one last year, whew.

The quarterback is still the field general, and my smart money is on Ben.

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Re: AFC North to Produce Sub .500 Champion???

Postby jason97673 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:41 pm

Nel wrote:I have been a Steelers fan for more than 40 years.

But, I don't see the Steelers winning the division this year, unfortunately. But I do not buy the sub-.500 argument for the division winner in the posted news article. I see us in second place, at .500.

My main reason is that I don't like our offensive line, at all.

I also don't trust Tomlin very much yet; he was too quiet last year, I hope he steps it up this year.


It doesnt matter how bad your OLine is when you have Ben behind Center. If we had Manning, Palmer, or Brady we would be in trouble.

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Re: AFC North to Produce Sub .500 Champion???

Postby Nel » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:07 pm

jason97673 wrote:
Nel wrote:I have been a Steelers fan for more than 40 years.

But, I don't see the Steelers winning the division this year, unfortunately. But I do not buy the sub-.500 argument for the division winner in the posted news article. I see us in second place, at .500.

My main reason is that I don't like our offensive line, at all.

I also don't trust Tomlin very much yet; he was too quiet last year, I hope he steps it up this year.


It doesnt matter how bad your OLine is when you have Ben behind Center. If we had Manning, Palmer, or Brady we would be in trouble.


I agree that Ben is a top-5 QB in the league, but a relatively ineffective O-line leaves him open to getting banged up and missing games. That is what bothers me.

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Re: AFC North to Produce Sub .500 Champion???

Postby RoethlisCrosby87 » Sun Jul 20, 2008 7:56 am

I've learned that things never quite turn out in January as the "experts" predicted in July. We play the NFC East and AFC South this year, who each produced 3 playoff teams last year. I'd be willing to bet that not all 6 of those teams make the playoffs this year. Who knows, maybe it's the AFC North who produces 3 playoff teams this year? I doubt it, but I think in our boredom in the offseason we tend to over-analyze things.

We went 6-10 in 2003 and nobody predicted us to do shit in 2004. Surprise! We went 15-1 with a rookie QB and a similarly tough schedule to what we have this year. Not to mention in 2006 Baltimore whooped the shit out of us and went 13-3. Last year Ben threw five touchdowns (almost 6) in the first half against those rat bastards and they ended up 5-11 at the end of the year.

Who knows what will happen this year but I do know one thing. Nobody looks at Pittsburgh on their schedule and considers it a "gimme-game". You know when you're playing Pittsburgh its going to be a hard fought game till the very end. The AFC North Championship goes through Pittsburgh, and I don't think this year will be any different. Reguardless of the division winners record.

Win the division and you're in the playoffs. And from there, we all know it's a whole new ballgame.

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