The AFC North needs a little Christmas!

Kate Arhar
Senior Sports Editor AFC North and NFC South

By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8 

When I looked at the AFC North before the season started, I only got one thing right – the Cincinnati Bengals would finish at the bottom.

Who knew Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would need season-ending surgery?

Who thought Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson would not only stay healthy but be the top candidate for league MVP?

And my Cleveland Browns? Don’t get me started…

With this being the holiday season and all, I thought I’d make a few Christmas present wishes for each of these teams.

At 13-2 and home field advantaged clinched for the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens don’t seem to need any gifts this year. And yet, everyone should get at least one present! My wish for them is simply for QB Lamar Jackson to stay healthy.  I love QB’s who are smart and quick on their feet. The amount of work he has done in the offseason to improve his passing skills has been very impressive.
While watching gunslingers throw the ball around makes for exciting entertainment, a leader both on and off the field who also has more than one ability in his bag of tricks is not only good for the NFL but for a lot of other college players who were told they couldn’t play quarterback and the NFL level and to switch positions. Jackson is a prime example of hard work and raw talent paying off big time.

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers have somehow gotten to 8-7 this year. In a season that saw backups playing under center and a huge trade giving up their first-round draft pick to get free safety stud Minkah Fitzpatrick, many complained that this would be a wasted season. And yet, they’ve managed to stay in the playoff hunt beyond all of those low expectations.

My Christmas Wish for this team is that head coach Mike Tomlin wins the NFL Coach of the Year Award. In my opinion, Tomlin is one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL. With star players, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for dealing with all of those diva personalities, losing stars like Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, and still managing to keep this team in the hunt. If the adversity he has overcome this season in dealing with backup QB’s Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges isn’t enough to show how truly talented a coach he is, then nothing can.

 

The Cleveland Browns have underperformed so incredibly this year that I’m still trying to believe it. They have more talent on this roster then they’ve had in years – possibly decades – and they still only have 6 wins and no chance at a .500 season with just one game remaining. My wish for them is simply to have a head coach next year who can win. Period.

Chances that Freddie Kitchens returns are about 50/50 to my mind. I believe that the front office is looking to get stability after years of running the coaching carousel. Whether he is the right person for the job or not, I hope WHOEVER is leading this team next year figures it out and gets them into the 10+ win category. It’s shameful to waste the kind of talent that wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. have. It’s even more shameful to waste playing time for running backs, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. We all know the RB’s don’t get a lot of years in the NFL so it’s vital that the 2020 head coach takes advantage of this talent!

 

And now we come to the 1-14 Cincinnati Bengals. Well, they’ve locked up the top pick in the 2020 draft, so I’ll predict now that they answer their quarterback issues be taking Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. But a QB isn’t the only thing wrong with this team. They’ve got a wide receiver in Tyler Boyd who is close to 1,000 yards and also running back Joe Mixon who should hit 1,000 as well. They have a rookie head coach Zac Taylor who, I think, will get better next year. So what do they really need?  DEFENSE!

This Bengals defense is tied for dead last with the Los Angeles Chargers in turnover ratio. The offense has given the ball up 29 times but the defense has only taken it away 13 times. Ugh. My wish is that they find some play-makers and maybe a new defensive coordinator. They need something to move them into the top ten as far as the turnover ratio. If they end up starting a rookie under center next year, this defense will have to improve in order to help him out!

 

What would you wish for these AFC North teams as a Christmas gift?

 

Talk NFL with Kate on Twitter / @ClvlndK8 

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