Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens are poised for another late season run, but injuries are threatening their season before it even begins. If the Ravens defense is able to overcome the loss of Terrell Suggs it will be surprising to me. So that is why I think the offense will really need to step up in a big way in 2012. I believe that second year receiver Torrey Smith will make big strides again this year as he leads the team in receiving, but I think the team will be pleasantly surprised with the play of Ed Dickson. The third year receiver has yet to have the impact that they envisioned from the young tight end, but I think he makes a splash in 2012. Dickson caught 54 receptions for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns last season. This year I think he could be in the 65-75 ball range with around 8 touchdowns. His emergence this year will add a new element to Baltimore's passing game that it has lacked since the early part of Todd Heap's career.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Pittsburgh is going to have a rough season this year, and I actually think that the Bengals could surpass them now. The offensive line is in shambles. Mendenhall is still injured. Roethlisberger is already injured and the season is just starting. James Harrison isn't healthy yet. They are running a brand new offense under Todd Haley and their best offensive weapon, Mike Wallace, just ended his lengthy holdout. I have always said that I don't trust players coming off a holdout, there are too many examples of players that only end up hurting themselves and their teams by holding out. I love Wallace's game breaking ability, but I just can't trust him this season. With that being said, I expect Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to get even more work this year. And I expect both to play well, but the Steelers reigning team MVP will lead this team once again in 2012.
Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals are an emerging team that has a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. One player that I believe will be a Game Changer in 2012 is Jermaine Gresham. Gresham could have been a top 15 pick in the 2010 draft if it wasn't for the knee injury he suffered in his last season at Oklahoma. Gresham recovered quickly and has been productive in Cincy through his first two seasons, but honestly I don't think we have seen anywhere close to his potential. In preseason, prior to his minor knee tweak, Gresham was looking as explosive as ever. Now he has had two full seasons since the injury and he has had a year to develop chemistry with Dalton. So I expect Gresham to be a huge factor for the Bengals in 2012.
Cleveland Browns - Things don't look particularly good in Cleveland, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I think that the selections of Weeden and Gordon were reaches and that Richardson will, ultimately, not be worth the selection. Only time will tell if that is the case or not, but I don't see much success on the horizon in Cleveland. Trent Richardson, when healthy, should still be the focal point of their offense and will be a productive player. The Browns don't have any proven commodities at their skills positions, so they will be leaning heavily on the young back no matter if he struggles or not. So let's take a look at the defensive side of the ball. This is where I can see some promise. My eyes immediately go to second year defensive end Jabaal Sheard. As a rookie on a mediocre defense, Sheard produced 8.5 sacks. In his second season Sheard should be a big time impact player on a slowly improving unit. Even without big Phil Taylor in the middle, Sheard should be able to register double digit sacks for the Browns.