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Denver: great team, or the greatest team? Would you be satisfied with "one of the ten greatest teams?" Plus: hard times in the NFC South, where defense goes to die.

17 Feb 2010

Four Downs: AFC North

by Robert Weintraub

Baltimore: Is there trouble ahead for the defense?

"Trouble" is a relative word in this case -- the Ravens won’t resemble the Lions on defense any time soon. But there were some negative trends in 2009 that need to be addressed in the offseason. Football Outsiders' DVOA metrics (explained here) ranked Baltimore as the third-most efficient defense in the NFL and seventh against the pass. But a closer look reveals that much of the pass-defense success came from the excellent play by the linebackers and safety Ed Reed. Baltimore was the best team in the NFL at shutting down the opponent’s tight end and third at defending passes to opponent's running backs. Wide receivers had much greater success, with the Ravens defense ranked in the middle of the NFL pack. Some of the trouble against the pass can be attributed to a decline in the front seven. Baltimore's Adjusted Sack Rate dropped to 23rd in the NFL, although the defense was still stout against the run.

The Ravens have some aging parts surrounding Pro Bowl starter Haloti Ngata. Ray Lewis and Trevor Pryce will each be 35 next year and Kelly Gregg will be 34. Linebacker Terrell Suggs saw his pass-rushing production drop sharply in 2009. A banged-up Tavares Gooden never established himself at the "Jack" linebacker spot, forcing the team to start undrafted rookie Dannell Ellerbe. The secondary faces the frightening prospect of Ed Reed’s threatened retirement, plus a lack of depth at corner, exacerbated by the knee injury to promising rookie Lardarius Webb in December. The departure of defensive coordinator/Mouth That Roared Rex Ryan (not to mention several starters, including linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard) also has had a deleterious effect.

Small wonder then that despite a glaring need at wide receiver, the talk around Owings Mills is that the team could go defense-heavy in the draft. Without an infusion of talent, the unit could decline more rapidly in 2010.

Who could leave?

Ravens fans suffered a collective coronary when safety Ed Reed muttered the dreaded word "retirement" after the playoff loss to Indianapolis. A little time has passed, and it appears that Reed’s complaints about consistent injuries, while no doubt sincere, may also be about negotiating a new contract. Clearly, it is in Baltimore’s best interest to keep the ballhawking safety, and the pending uncapped year should increase their flexibility in doing so.

Reed’s secondary cohorts safety Dawan Landry and corner Frank Walker are unrestricted free agents and will likely test the market. Quarterback Troy Smith is still ruing the tonsillitis that cost him the starting gig before 2008; with Joe Flacco firmly entrenched, Smith wants out. As a restricted free agent, he will need to be dealt, but the list of teams with a "Help Wanted" sign at the position is small in number. Smith may wind up with a change of scenery but not job description.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason has been the Ravens’ lone outside threat for a couple of seasons, but he will be 36 when next season begins. He too has mentioned stepping aside and is a free agent that could depart to be a mentor type. On the opposite side, wide receiver Mark Clayton is an RFA. Given the lack of options in Charm City, Baltimore will probably ask him to stay around for another year. Offensive tackle Jared Gaither is another RFA, but the Ravens will surely lock him up.

Who could they sign?

The Ravens, like their division rivals, are desperate for an upgrade at wide receiver. Ozzie Newsome might cast an eye toward the desert, where the Cardinals are lousy with receiving talent. The emergence of Early Doucet late in the year makes perennially disgruntled Anquan Boldin and RFA Steve Breaston trade possibilities. Breaston in particular would be a coup, as he also fills a need at punt returner (minus-0.6 points in the punt return game in 2009). The strong clubhouse and Flacco’s strong arm make the acquisition of "problem" wideouts like Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall inside the realm of possibility. Assuming the full complement of defensive backs does not return, Texans' corner Dunta Robinson could be an intriguing fit. He isn’t likely to be franchised by the Texans, and while he has underperformed to this point, he could thrive in Baltimore’s aggressive 3-4.

Cincinnati: Will they complete a forward pass in 2010?

The Bengals made a decision after 2008 to compete in the smashmouth AFC North with a power running game and a strong defense. Mission accomplished. Problem was, the team totally lost its ability to stretch the field, and in a league that prizes throwing the ball downfield more than ever, that’s not a long-term growth strategy. Quarterback Carson Palmer was 19th in the NFL in our DVOA ratings and was more erratic than he’s been since entering the league, completing only 60.5 percent of his passes. Whispers that he wasn’t over the elbow injury that cost him the 2008 season grew louder as the Bengals passing game got worse. To his credit, Palmer did lead several late-game comebacks and bought into the team’s commitment to the run despite being unable to build any momentum in the passing attack.

His receiving corps certainly didn’t help. Only Chad Ochocinco was reliably capable of getting open, and he was usually double-teamed, which helped lead to a 58 percent catch rate. The death of Chris Henry was tragic, but he was already on injured reserve -- the team missed his deep threat potential desperately, and Palmer stopped looking downfield once he went out. Laveranues Coles had a poor 57 percent catch rate, a far cry from the sure-handed T.J. Houshmandzadeh he was signed to replace. The Bengals lost their top two tight ends, Reggie Kelly and Ben Utecht, in training camp, leaving the position as a block-first, -second and -third proposition, held down by slow-footed J.P. Foschi and iron-handed Daniel Coats. Third-round pick Chase Coffman never recovered from an offseason foot injury or the tongue lashings he received on Hard Knocks.

The offensive line recovered from an abominable 2008 to run-block more than respectably -- the Bengals actually led the league converting runs in short yardage (just under 80 percent of the time) -- but the unit struggled to pass block. Palmer was only sacked 29 times, but the team totally reined in its five- and seven-step dropback packages. By season’s end, the Bengals were more conservative than Barry Goldwater. If the team is to build on its 2009 rebound, it must upgrade personnel on the flanks, get some speed in the lineup, and return to within shouting distance of its old, high-flying self.

Who could leave?

Guard Bobbie Williams is the best UFA on the team, and it’s hard to imagine Cincinnati letting the heart and soul of the offensive line get away. The Bengals have good linebacking depth, for once, but keeping both Rashad Jeanty and Brandon Johnson isn’t likely. Look for Cincy to pursue one, probably Johnson, and let the other walk. Johnson was an excellent player on third down, both in coverage and as a blitzer, when defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer went to 3-4 looks. Jeanty is a solid tackler but less dynamic than Johnson (and besides, the Bengals always like to have a bunch of Johnsons around, although see below ...). A similar decision might come on the line, where rotation defensive tackle Tank Johnson and defensive end Frostee Rucker both surpassed expectations. After his playoff meltdown, Shayne Graham has probably kicked his last in Cincinnati. Running back Larry Johnson is unlikely to return, and Fullback Jeremi Johnson could be displaced by a younger blocker.

Who could they sign?

OCNN (Ochocinco News Network) has been trumpeting the T.O.-to-Cincy talk since the day after the season ended. "I got him," Ochocinco said when asked about the Bengals adding yet another miscreant. "I got him. I’d put him under my wing. 'Hey T, shut up.' I’d put him in a head lock. He’s good. He’s awesome. Look at his numbers. Why not?" Well, here’s why -- Laveranues Coles would have to be jettisoned, and the message to young receivers Andre Caldwell, Quan Cosby, and Jerome Simpson would be, "thanks anyway." Many Bengals fans wouldn’t mind that, but obviously, the 36-year-old Owens would be a short-term solution. Brandon Marshall also falls into the "keep him miles from the Bengals" category, but at least he’s younger. In terms of pure football ability, Marshall is exactly what the Bengals require -- a dynamic, outside-the-numbers threat who can make yards after the catch. But Mike Brown doesn’t like to give away draft picks. If Marshall is tendered at first-round level, the Bengals aren’t likely to make the move. Also, not even the NFL’s Secretary of State, Chad Ochocinco, would be able to control Marshall.

Cleveland: Mike Holmgren? Tom Heckert? Eric Mangini? Who is in charge?

It’s hard to begin assessing the 2010 Cleveland Browns until we know exactly what sort of offense and defense the team will run, what personnel needs to be kept or acquired to fit the schemes, and what the new brain trust, which also includes capologist Bryan Wiedmeier, thinks of the current roster. We can guess at certain elements -- new president Mike Holmgren is a west coast offense guru, new GM Tom Heckert is an astute drafter of interior linemen -- but for the moment, rumors of Cleveland’s interest in players like defensive end Julius Peppers cannot be properly assessed.

The Browns appeared to be the worst team in the NFL at the three-quarter pole of 2009 but ended the season playing hard for coach Eric Mangini, winning their last four games. Mirage? Player self-interest? Or actual progress? The four wins were all over non-playoff teams, but the Browns found an identity behind Jerome Harrison’s punishing runs and all-purpose weapon Josh Cribbs making plays on special teams and with direct snaps on offense. The semblance of actual football left new boss Holmgren with little choice but to keep the ManGenius, for better or worse. How Mangini works with others will determine much in 2010 and beyond.

One area of concern, regardless of who calls the shots is depth on the Cleveland defense -- particularly in the secondary. Cleveland’s coverage ranked right at the bottom of the league in stopping opposing tight ends (32nd), passes to running backs (31st), and slot receivers (27th). Cornerback Eric Wright is developing well, but overall there is a paucity of speed and covering ability among the linebackers and safeties in particular.

Who could leave?

Josh Cribbs, Josh Cribbs, Josh Cribbs. The return genius/Wildcat impresario was about the only thing worth watching for most of Cleveland’s season. His specialist role makes his contract demands a tricky test for the Browns front office, but there is little doubt about his impact. Should the Browns not meet Cribbs’ needs, there will be plenty of interest around the league for his services, although he will certainly be costly. Meanwhile, the Browns have several quality four-year unrestricted free agents that could walk. Running back Jerome Harrison, linebackers Matt Roth and D'Qwell Jackson, and guard Rex Hadnot are the main suspects. Safety Brodney Pool may retire due to concussion issues. Donte Stallworth was, unsurprisingly, released after serving his suspension.

Who could they sign?

Bringing in a quarterback to replace the Brady Quinn/Derek Anderson comedy duo is Topic A in Cleveland, and while big names like Donovan McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck dominate talk radio, Jason Campbell is a much better choice, in terms of age, cost, and production potential. Meanwhile, rumor mill gossip has the Broncos putting together a deal involving Marshall to the Browns in return for quarterback Brady Quinn. That seems unlikely, but the Browns should explore bringing the Denver Problem Child to Lake Erie. Back on planet earth, the secondary requires immediate upgrade, as discussed above. The Disease of More could prevent New Orleans from bringing back both of their UFA safeties, Roman Harper and Darren Sharper. Corner Carlos Rogers will only be available if a new CBA comes into effect and might not get an extension in D.C.

Pittsburgh: Are the Pittsburgh Steelers Still the Pittsburgh Steelers?

When Cincinnati slugged out an 18-12 victory in Pittsburgh in mid-November, Mike Ditka called it "the most blatant example of identity theft" he could recall. The classic Steelers formula of running the ball and playing great defense was seemingly absent in 2009, as the Steelers followed their Super Bowl title by failing to qualify for the playoffs.

Fans in the Steel City shouldn't fret too much. While offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has been under fire for a supposed tendency to throw too often on third-and-short, the Steelers ran it 66 percent of the time in Power situations (third- or fourth-and-two or less, and on the goal line). The NFL average is 63 percent, putting Pittsburgh right in the middle of the league. Also a myth: The league-wide conventional wisdom that Arians was afraid to run the ball in short-yardage situations because of deterioration along the line. Pittsburgh's offensive line actually was fifth in the NFL in Power situations, converting 72 percent of the time. It seems Steelers fans won't be happy until the return of a Rocky Bleier-Jerome Bettis backfield, not to mention 1975 rules and tendencies.

The real reason why Pittsburgh threw it more than in previous years is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is the team's best offensive player. Our metrics rank Big Ben as the eighth-best quarterback in the league, both in total value (1,392 DYAR) and value per play (27.9 percent DVOA). His size and ability to conjure something from nothing have remade the team's identity, and probably none too soon -- if 2009 taught us anything, it's that the NFL is a passing league.

It was on defense that the Steelers let down. Overall, the defense wasn't bad -- its DVOA was eighth in the league, albeit down from the No. 1 slot a year ago. Obviously, Troy Polamalu's return to health should improve the unit at every level. But was his absence that important? Apparently so. In the five games Polamalu played, the Steelers allowed 5.36 yards per pass with seven interceptions and a pass defense DVOA of minus-30.9%. If they had played at that level the whole year, they would have ranked second in pass defense, trailing only the Jets. In the 11 games without Polamalu, the Steelers allowed 5.96 yards per pass with only five interceptions and a pass defense DVOA of 18.9 percent. That would have ranked them 27th in pass defense for the entire season.

Who could leave?

Pittsburgh isn't likely to let outstanding nose tackle Casey Hampton get away. That could mean franchising him or getting a long-term deal done -- neither side is tipping its hand at the moment. Hampton's situation will affect other decisions, especially safety Ryan Clark. Clark is a feared hitter and strong in run support. He is in the Steelers' plans for 2010, but only if the price is right. The Pittsburgh M.O. has always been to let players go elsewhere if they don't fit in the team's wage structure, and Clark is a borderline case, especially if the team doesn't want to commit a sizable percentage of money to a single position (with Troy Polamalu making nearly $7 million). Right tackle Willie Colon is a restricted free agent, and a year ago his long-term prospects in black-and-gold were doubtful. Pittsburgh ranked near the bottom in running right in 2009, but the consensus in the organization is that Colon improved enough to re-sign. Bid a fond farewell to running back "No Longer Fast" Willie Parker, while corner Deshea Townsend at 34 seems destined for the woodpile.

Who could they sign?

Much depends on the labor talks -- there are lots of good young linemen who would become available if a new CBA were enacted. Donald Penn, Logan Mankins, and Jahri Evans are among the names. Assuming that doesn't happen, Pittsburgh could swipe tough but aging (33) guard Bobbie Williams from division-rival Cincinnati or younger (28) guard Rex Hadnot from another foe, Cleveland. New Hall-of-Famer Dick LeBeau might salivate over the chance to add a corner with potential like Dunta Robinson to his secondary. If Hampton leaves, Pitt could go for a big name nose tackle like Vince Wilfork or, more likely, a lesser-known name like San Francisco's Aubrayo Franklin.

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 17 Feb 2010

27 comments, Last at 23 Feb 2010, 8:32pm by commissionerleaf

Comments

1
by Andy Watkins (not verified) :: Thu, 02/18/2010 - 8:48pm

Persistent references to James Harrison in the Cleveland section. Tee hee.

2
by Andy Watkins (not verified) :: Thu, 02/18/2010 - 8:52pm

Also, I'd totally drop Hampton if he wants money. He's old; he isn't nearly as fast as he used to be; it's not worth it. It'll hurt our line, sure, but we'll need to replace him eventually, and this year's a better candidate than most. (Hell, working on our defensive line and finding an ILB to study behind Farrior is two-thirds of what we need on defense. The other third is a cornerback.)

3
by Theo :: Thu, 02/18/2010 - 9:30pm

Pittsburgh will be alright.
We'll tag Hampton, draft an OL, a safety and linebacker and a cornerback.

4
by FourteenDays :: Thu, 02/18/2010 - 10:25pm

About the last paragraph, wasn't Franklin already franchised?

6
by Jimmy Oz (not verified) :: Thu, 02/18/2010 - 11:41pm

Yes, and the Bengals signed Matt Jones. How long ago was the article written?

7
by David Gardner :: Thu, 02/18/2010 - 11:58pm

It has been reported by ESPN, but he hasn't actually been franchised officially.

-- Dave

5
by dk240t :: Thu, 02/18/2010 - 11:18pm

Apparently Robert Weintraub really loves Dunta Robinson.

8
by Podge (not verified) :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 7:07am

Won't the Steelers franchise Hampton, draft an NT this year, have Hampton play for a year or 2 more under either the tag or a new contract and then let him go when the NT they draft is ready to be one of the best in the league?

23
by Jerry :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 7:37pm

That's the most likely scenario, using the franchise tag rather than a new contact. Even though the guy they draft might not be ready to be one of the best in the league in a couple years.

9
by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 10:45am

I do not know why I never put Brandon Marshall and the WR need in Baltimore together. Marshall is acting like a punk and a brat, but I still place a great deal of that on Daniels shoulders. Harbaugh, another younger coach, has kept a steady hand on the stern of a veteran team. I do not know if it would work, but I would love to see Marshall in BAL.

After TO's miraculous bail-out of BAL the first time around, I cannot see Ozzie trying to pick him up.

10
by jebmak :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:05am

Does anyone know when the year-end awards article is coming out?

11
by Micranot (not verified) :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:14am

No idea if this would work for the cap, but is it possible (and as a Colt's fan, hoping probable) that Indy goes after Cribbs? There is precedent for this, signing 1 key FA special teamer (Vinatieri) in an attempt to help them get over the hump, and I could not think of a more appropriate person to fill their biggest hole.

Probably wistful thinking, but hey - it's the offseason!

25
by rk (not verified) :: Sat, 02/20/2010 - 1:54am

Barring a sudden reversal, there will be no cap this year. Indy still isn't likely to make any moves outside the draft.

12
by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:18am

"Dunta Robinson to his secondary. If Hampton leaves, Pitt could go for a big name nose tackle like Vince Wilfork or, more likely, a lesser-known name like San Francisco's Aubrayo Franklin."

Dear author, please remember that you are not writing the standard 4 Downs whenever you have the Steelers as the subject...they won't, never-ever go for guys like that on your last paragraph, please get some more research done and look for tier two or tier three role players if you want to speculate on who they could actually sign.

On the intro, you are right-on, so that gives you a good grade.

Personally, I think that they will let Hampton walk, draft a NT on first or second round and get a defensive heavy draft, including ILB, CB and S, while keeping Clark around.

13
by BywaterBrat :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:48am

Harlan Ellison for life!!!

14
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 12:34pm

'Hey T, shut up.' I’d put him in a head lock.

I'm getting my popcorn ready. I'm pretty sure T.O. can take OchoCinco.

18
by alexbond :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 3:24pm

85 could just shove TO once and that would be the fight right there, have you seen what happens to TO when he gets pressed at the line?

15
by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 1:10pm

Dawan Landry is a RFA not an unrestricted free agent.

26
by rk (not verified) :: Sat, 02/20/2010 - 1:58am

There are quite a few other players listed as UFA instead of RFA: Jerome Harrison, Matt Roth, D'Qwell Jackson, Rex Hadnot. Anyone with under 6 years of service is set to be restricted, so the phrase "four-year unrestricted free agents" from the Cleveland section is bizarre.

16
by SirKev (not verified) :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 2:37pm

Most of this report is spot on for the Steelers, but I thought that they drafted the NT of the future last year in Ziggy Hood. Is he not big enough to play the 3-4 NT and will be switched to DE or is he not starter material? I'm also surprised at the success that Pit had in power situations. It must be perception because I recall failure after failure in 3rd-4th and short situations late in games. I would be curious to see the Power success numbers by quarter and game situation. Noting sample size and all, I would expect that the Steelers rate of success was much lower in the 4th Q v 1st Q. I still think that the Steelers need upgrades at the guard positions rather than tackles because Big Ben can handle the rushers off the edge; its when the pocket is getting pressured inside that he has problems.

Lastly, I agree with the positioning on Ryan Clark. He's a nice complementary player but when Palamalu was out he didn't seem able to step up his game and lead the backups. If we can get him for a reasonable number, great. If another team offers insane money, let him go.

19
by drobviousso :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 4:38pm

Hood is DE in Pittsburgh's system. He was drafted as such, played a bit in spot duty in the middle of the season (I think), and played the last few games full time. I think he's a more natural fit in Keisel's spot on the left, but the right side had the injuries.

Hood is not a NT. He is better as a 1 gap lineman than a 2 gap lineman, and the Steelers ends usually have 1 gap assignments. Sticking him at NT would neutralize his best assets - 'motor' to track a play from behind and the ability to either shoot an inside gap or hold the edge. He would probably be serviceable as a NT a 4/3 that occasionally went 3/4.

17
by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 3:04pm

Rob,

I know you watched the Bengals very closely this year as a Cincy fan. Was it your impression from the focus on the AFC North that Baltimore was the best team in the NFL? As the DVOA data is suggesting?

Also, I wanted to ask about how these facts fit together with the full season DVOA ranking.

*Baltimore ranked #1 in overall DVOA

*Baltimore ranked 7th defensively against the pass

*Baltimore ranked in the middle of the pack against wide receivers

*Baltimore ranked 23rd in adjusted sack rate

*Baltimore's offense ranked 15th in passing DVOA

*QB Joe Flacco ranked 14th in DYAR and 18th in DVOA

*"if 2009 taught us anything, it's that the NFL is a passing league." (quote from the Pittsburgh section above)

How does all that fit together? If it's a passing league, how does 7th defensively against the pass with the 18th ranked quarterback add up to #1 in the league in the DVOA metric? How could a second-year QB ranked 18th in DVOA who struggled vs. quality opposition lead his team to the best overall grading in a passing league?

Wanted to ask the AFC North guy because you've watched those teams so closely.

20
by drobviousso :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 4:41pm

From my perspective - The Bengals won more than their share of 'close' game. The Guts/Stomps article may not have been perfect, but Baltimore and Cincy could be it's poster child. I'm fairly neutral in that I root against both teams every chance I get, and I think Baltimore looked better.

21
by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 4:44pm

Agree with that doc, particularly in the latter stages of the season. I was a Cincy believer for awhile after the road wins at GB and Baltimore, but they eventually talked me out of it (lol). From your neutrality, would you consider Baltimore as best in the whole NFL though?

24
by drobviousso :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 8:00pm

Not by a long shot. Firmly tier 2, but they need to address their WR corp and secondary. Depending on what happens this off season, they'll be in as strong a position as any team.

22
by Justin Zeth :: Fri, 02/19/2010 - 6:40pm

Hampton's just about washed up, and it will be neither unreasonable nor surprising if the Steelers let him walk. I definitely can't see them giving him a big contract, but (especially if 2010 goes uncapped), I could see them franchising him while they work to line up a replacement.

It's easy to say 'they'll draft a DT', but who? They pick 20th, pretty low to grab an elite 3-4 NT talent. They drafted Hampton at #19 many moons ago, when the 3-4 was less popular in the NFL than it is now. To get a Hamptonlike talent they would have to trade up, which would be a very bad idea. They need help at every position on the field except QB and WR, desperately so on both lines. If they draft a NT in a lower round, they will probably franchise Hampton to keep him around another year while the new guy learns the system.

Ryan Clark is probably gone, and that's fine. He's not really that good. Someone will overpay him based on the 1-2 times per game he lays on a highlight reel hit and KO's himself in the process. Clark is poor in pass coverage and would probably bite on a play fake on 3rd-and-23. In other words, he has Troy Polamalu's mindset but not his ungodly athleticism.

27
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 8:32pm

Bengals: Cincinnati has a window of opportunity opening that they desperately need pass blocking and better injury luck to take advantage of before Carson Palmer starts declining. I'm of the opinion that he's still one of the better quarterbacks in football, even if he's becoming Donovan McNabb rather than Peyton Manning (as it appeared he might two years into his career). The Bengals season started to fall apart when Abram Elam and their entire recently-rebuilt linebacker corps fell down with injuries; if they get everyone back at full strength they will again be the class of the AFC North.

A little draft help on the offensive and defensive lines wouldn't be amiss though.

Steelers: A rebuilding team. The Super Bowl Steelers of yore are no more; this team now resembles the Drew Bledsoe Patriots; good on defense, but without a credible running game and with an occasionally great but questionable passing attack. They should let Hampton walk or trade him, and accept that the defense is going to decline for a year or two; there are a lot of holes and a lot of aging pieces covering more holes. The offensive line is a huge need, that absolutely must be addressed if Roethlisberger is still going to be around when the team heads back the the Super Bowl.

Ravens: A rebuilding team, but one with a very young offensive core and enough pieces left on defense to make a run any and every year. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed won't be around forever, and there is a lot of talent all over the field, so trading up in the draft might actually make a lot of sense if it meant an Eric Berry or a playmate for Haloti Ngata on the defensive line. The Ravens are going to be a power for years to come with Flacco, Rice, and Gaither/Oher. The trick is going to be managing a generational shift on defense... and how hard that is is a lesson they can see being taught to Chicago and Pittsburgh at this very moment.

Cleveland: A cesspool. Holmgren should have held out for something better.