NFL2014 Crystal Schnoz Predictions – AFC North

3 notes before we get to the predictions:

1. NFL predictions are so hard to nail because of injuries, parity, and random bounces of the ball. That’s why this is so fun.

2. FO = Football Outsiders. I reference them and their phenomenal stats a lot. Their almanac is fantastical, go buy it.

3. Share your predictions in the comments so we can come back in January and marvel at how much smarter I am than you. Yeah, I just went there. CHALLENGE!!!


#1 – Pittsburgh Steelers

2 Things You Might Already Know

1) This coaching staff has 19 combined years of experience with the Steelers, more continuity than any other team in the league. (Tomlin-7, Haley-2, LeBeau-10)

2) The Steelers backup right tackle is Guy Whimper. No, seriously. There is a football player named Guy Whimper. (Please don’t kill me, Guy Whimper.)

2 Things You Didn’t Already Know

1) Strong Safety Troy Polamalu eats one strand of his hair before each defensive series because he believes the protein gives him a supernatural energy boost.

2) Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley has never been pregnant.

Random Object That Reminds Us Of This Team Without Any Context or Explanation: Your go-to frying pan

Celebrity Fans: Seth Meyers, Jimmie Johnson, and Wiz Khalifa

Best Case Scenario: 16-0

Worst Case Scenario: A giant sinkhole opens up on the 50-yard line of their practice field next week during an All Hands on Deck huddle and they all die.

Schnoz Prediction: 11-5

Why: Let’s start with the schedule, which FO projects to be the third easiest in the league this year. Not only do they get the weak AFC South, they also get the Colts and Saints at home while the Ravens have those teams on the road. This could be a top ten offense with an increased workload for Leveon Bell, the emergence of Markus Wheaton, and some injury good fortune on their O-line (which they are due for). We think Big Ben creeps into the MVP discussion, Ryan Shazier edges out Clowney and Pryor for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the Steelers host a playoff game in January.

#2 – Baltimore Ravens

2 Things You Might Already Know

1) Per FO, in 2013 the Ravens had the 4th worse rushing attack of any offense in the last 25 years. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS!!!

2) At $20.1MM, Joe Flacco has the third highest average QB salary in the NFL; higher than Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. In related news, Joe Flacco has the best agent in the history of life. (per Spotrac)

2 Things You Didn’t Already Know

1) Justin Tucker, the Ravens’ kicker, has suffered from a Medicated ChapStick addiction since he was four.

2) In response to three separate altercations in the team cafeteria this preseason, the team voted on which channel the television should be tuned to at lunch. With 39% of the vote, QVC barely edged out ESPN and the NFL Network.

Random Object That Reminds Us Of This Team Without Any Context or Explanation: A solid pair of sunglasses from American Eagle.

Celebrity Fans: Michael Phelps, Stacy Keibler, and Carmelo Anthony

Best Case Scenario: 16-0

Worst Case Scenario: A 75-foot mutant raven escapes from its cage at a nearby mad scientist’s house and eats the entire roster before drowning itself in the Chesapeake Bay and they all die.

Schnoz Prediction: 9-7

Why: Despite how bad their running game was last year, look for their offense to propel them to a winning record in 2014. Ray Rice appears to have his burst back, but the real difference will come from Gary Kubiak replacing Jim Caldwell as the Offensive Coordinator. Kubiak might not be a stellar head man, but when focused on the offense he’ll deliver. It’s not a tough schedule, but the way teams in this division beat up on each other we’re projecting the Ravens to be the first team on the outside looking in come January.

#3 – Cincinnati Bengals

2 Things You Might Already Know

1) It’s not often that an 11-win team enters the season with new coordinators, but Hue Jackson has taken over the offense and Paul Guenther is now in charge of the defense. Former coordinators Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer are now head coaches in Washington and Minnesota, respectively.

2) The ink is still drying on Andy Dalton’s 6-year, $96 Million contract, and wow, that’s a lot of coin for a QB with a career 0-3 playoff record (1 TD, 6 INTs). Looks like we’ve found the second best agent in the history of life.

2 Things You Didn’t Already Know

1) LB Vontaze Burfict’s two favorite anagrams for his name are “Fat Biz Cover Nut” and “Butt Czar on Five.”

2) Since 2010 RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis has spent a majority off his bye week time off floating in a tank of bacta fluid.

Random Object That Reminds Us Of This Team Without Any Context or Explanation: Ruffles Potato Chips

Celebrity Fans: George Clooney, Woody Harrelson, and Nick Lachey

Best Case Scenario: 16-0

Worst Case Scenario: The entire team goes to see Guardians of the Galaxy on an off day and there just so happens to be a hive of Africanized killer bees in the theater that no one has noticed. Bored with the movie, Andy Dalton starts throwing skittles at the the screen, but he keeps missing and hitting the beehive instead. Eventually the bees get fed up and sting everyone to death and they all die.

Schnoz Prediction: 8-8

Why: Like we did with Pittsburgh, let’s start with the schedule. It’s not brutal, but on top of the divisional games you can add home tilts against Denver and Carolina, coupled with road games at New Orleans, New England, and Indy. There’s a real chance Andy Dalton and his newly fat wallet could be feeling the urgency of a 2-5 record after seven games. The bright spot remains the defense (5th in 2013 by FO metrics), which boasts a secondary many consider to be among the league’s best. Only Bill Belicheck has been on the job longer than Marvin Lewis, we’re just not sure if that’s a good thing at this point. Will Andy Dalton finally get that playoff win? We don’t think he even gets a chance.

#4 – Cleveland Browns

2 Things You Might Already Know

1) Johnny Manziel will start the year on the bench while local hero Brian Hoyer and his career 3-1 record as a starting QB lead the team into battle in Week 1.

2) In 2013 no offense was worse at breaking tackles, and no defense was worse in the Red Zone, per FO. In case you’re wondering, that’s not good.

2 Things You Didn’t Already Know

1) CB Joe Haden owns three pairs of monogrammed kitchen tongs because he is petrified of burning his hands in his toaster oven.

2) Owner Jimmy Haslem once fired an intern for whistling “The Song That Doesn’t End” at a urinal.

Random Object That Reminds Us Of This Team Without Any Context or Explanation: A forgotten sled in your garage

Celebrity Fans: LeBron James, Condoleeza Rice, and Drew Carey

Best Case Scenario: 16-0

Worst Case Scenario: A comet falls to earth and decimates the entire state of Ohio, including everyone who plays for the Browns and they all die.

Schnoz Prediction: 6-10

Why: Because this is the start of a 2-year overhaul, not a 2-month touch-up. This team lost 11 of its last 12 in 2013 and has seen more changeover in the coaching staff this decade than the American Idol judges panel. It doesn’t really matter who’s under center this year – whether it’s Hoyer, Manziel, or Randy Jackson – the offense lacks the skill position weapons to outscore teams and win games in the thirties. Under Mike Pettine’s guidance this defense will keep the Browns in a lot of games, but without a dominant pass rush it won’t be enough. The Browns might start making beautiful noise in a year or two, but for now going this team is going to sound a little pitchy, dawg.

Alright everyone, chime in with your thoughts on the AFC North.

What do you agree with and where am I dead wrong?


AFC: East | North | South | West

NFC: East | North | South | West | The Playoffs