The NFL season begins in just more than two weeks, which is later than usual and still sooner than one realizes. We thought we’d take a look at each NFL division over the next fortnight, a scattershot glimpse that will be more updated than the magazine you grabbed before your flight but far less informative and helpful. First up: the AFC North!
1. Baltimore Ravens. (Projected record: 11-5)
Most important player: Joe Flacco.
Top newcomer: Anquan Boldin.
Person to root against: Donte’ Stallworth.
Fictional organizational factoid The team’s first head coach was poet Edgar Allan Poe, but he had to leave the team because of his debilitating syphilis.
Celebrity fan: Michael Phelps.
Games against NY teams: Week 1, Monday, September 13, at Jets.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (Projected record: 9-7)
Most important player: Ben Roethlisberger.
Top newcomer: Maurkice Pouncey.
Person to root against: Ben Roethlisberger.
Pointless organizational factoid: To buy a Personal Seat License at Heinz Field, you are legally required to be at least 18 percent insane and/or have a history of multiple felonies.
Celebrity fan: Adam Sandler.
Games against NY teams: Week 15, Sunday, December 19, vs. Jets.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (Projected record: 8-8)
Most important player: Cedric Benson.
Top newcomer: Terrell Owens.
Person to root against: Tank Johnson.
Fictional organizational factoid: The Ickey Shuffle is banned in six states, including Idaho.
Celebrity fan: George Clooney.
Games against NY teams: Week 12, Thursday, November 25 (Thanksgiving), at Jets.
4. Cleveland Browns (Projected record: 4-12)
Most important player: Josh Cribbs.
Top newcomer: Jake Delhomme.
Person to root against: Eric Mangini.
Fictional organizational factoid: The actual color of the Browns’ helmet is blue; the perception of brown is an optical illusion because Cleveland sits in a crater created by an iceberg that melted 45 million years ago.
Celebrity fan: Condoleezza Rice.
Games against NY teams: Week 10, Sunday, November 14, vs. Jets.