1. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4): They got off to one of their best starts in franchise history as they won their first eight games of the year. A.J. Green was healthy, the other weapons on this offense were stepping up outside of the number 18 and Andy Dalton was having the best year of his young NFL career and one thing I was noticing about Dalton was his leadership and how he took control of this offense. In December, Andy broke his thumb and I remember saying that he gives the Bengals a much better shot at winning a playoff game more so than McCaron does. The Bengals fell to 0-7 in the playoffs under Marvin Lewis and the way the lost, well, that’s a topic for another discussion. I simply don’t trust them when January comes around. They have no backbone at all.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6): It was the start of something new in Pittsburgh. Life after Troy Polamalu was set to begin. I really didn’t know what to make of the Steelers early on in the beginning of the season and they were becoming more of an offensive team. Antonio Brown emerged as the best wide receiver in the game today and had quite a few big games to prove just that. Mid-season, Le’Veon Bell went down with a torn MCL and was lost for the remainder of the season. The Steelers almost missed the playoffs after a disappointing loss in Baltimore but with the help of the Buffalo Bills defeating the Jets in week 17, the Steelers would end up clinching the sixth seed in the AFC. Their season would come to an end in Denver, the first time that Ben Roethlisberger has been defeated in the second round.
3. Baltimore Ravens (5-11): Being healthy does make a humongous difference and injuries just decimated the Ravens from the get go. Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles in week one, Steve Smith tore his Achilles in week six and they lost Justin Forsett to a broken arm and Joe Flacco to a torn ACL in the same game all in one season. With all that happening, nobody was afraid of the Ravens defense anymore. They struggled to rush the passer and the secondary, which was the biggest issue in 2014 struggled once again and they felt they could double people all game long which would end up hurting them. When they are healthy, the Ravens are a team to watch. This was only the second time that they’ve missed the playoffs under John Harbaugh.
4. Cleveland Browns (3-13): 2014, they surprised a lot of people and were in contention for most of the season. 2015 was a much different story. They went back to being the Cleveland Browns and struggled once again. They rotated quarterbacks all year long going from Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Johnny Manziel. The defense was inconsistent and the Browns would simply give up in some games. Mike Pettine was fired and the Browns hired Hue Jackson. They will more than likely draft a quarterback in this upcoming draft once again.