Last year’s super bowl champions have all the ingredients to brew up success again in 06’-07’. Ben Roethlisberger seems to have healed for the most part from his off-season motorcycle wreck and should be able to lead with youth as he has done in his first two seasons. The loss of an almost hero-like figure in Jerome Bettis will matter, but not enough to kill the hopes of a repeat. Another key loss is do-it-all man Antwaan Randel El. Randel El did a little of everything for the Steel City. His loss will make trick plays more difficult for coach Bill Cowher. And if you remember, the tricks were something he relied on in last season’s run to the championship.
If the Tennessee Titans have a rival, it is the Baltimore Ravens. Fitting that the cornerpiece of the Titans franchise since moving to Nashville, Steve McNair, would go to the Ravens as a result of poor management. McNair is reunited with former favorite receiver Derrick Mason. Along with TE Todd Heap, the Ravens pass attack will be better than ever. Everyone knows about the Ravens D. If safety Ed Reed stays healthy, the defense should be back to it’s old ways. And IF Jamal Lewis can get his head back into the game, the Ravens should pick up one of the two wild card spots and could potentially make a deep playoff push.
Cincinnati has had some off the field issues this summer. With arrests and injuries, they still have a lot of work to do in a short period of time. They have more incredible young talent than anyone in the league. Putting it together quickly will be the main issue. Four of their first six games are against playoff teams from one year ago, and their season opener is against a strong Kansas City team which many folks have chosen to win the AFC West. Carson Palmer’s health is an absolute necessity to keep the Bengals in the playoffs for the second year in a row. Wide-out Chad Johnson has promised more clean-cut versions of his celebrations, saying that he wishes to get the fans more involved. The Bengals could easily pick up a wild card spot if either the Ravens or Steelers struggle, but all three can’t make it.