2 AFC North Teams on Most Overrated, Underrated List


Joe Sargent/Getty Images Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts a pass under pressure against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 30, 2018.

On Thursday Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus identified three of the most overrated and underrated NFL teams entering the 2020 season. Two of the six teams compete in the AFC North, with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the most overrated list and the Cincinnati Bengals on the most underrated list.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Most Overrated?

About the Steelers, Treash says, “The Steelers’ consensus season outlook is among those that I disagree with the most. Some have predicted Pittsburgh to win the division, and a few have gone as far as to forecast that they will hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.”

Treash goes on to describe Pittsburgh’s defense as “formidable,” “but I am doubting their offense—specifically quarterback Ben Roethlisberger,” mostly because of signs of decline in 2018, including a “concerning decline in accuracy.” This despite “posting the lowest average depth of target in his career by half a yard.” Never mind that Roethlisberger looked even worse during the five-plus quarters he played last season.

But Treash fails to take into account that Roethlisberger’s elbow was giving him problems for years before it gave out on him, and by last summer Big Ben couldn’t hide the problem. As Pro Football Talk noted last fall, “When Chris Simms interviewed Roethlisberger during training camp [2019]—on a day when Roethlisberger hadn’t really done much at practice—he wore a giant wrap with ice on his throwing elbow.

Yet reports from this year’s training camp indicate that Roethlisberger is throwing the ball better—and more accurately—than he has in many years. If Roethlisberger returns to something approaching, say, his 2017 self, the Steelers could be better than NFL observers expect.

Cincinnati Bengals: Highly Underrated?

Meanwhile, Treash says, “If you were to tell me right now that the Cincinnati Bengals would end up sneaking in the playoffs this year, I wouldn’t be too surprised.”

Again, he points to the QB situation, saying “the Bengals just got the best quarterback prospect of the PFF College era—2014 to present,” referring to Joe Burrow.

Moreover, “there have been rave reviews about his accuracy coming out of training camp,” adds Treash. “And do not discount the impact of having a healthy A.J. Green, as well as the addition of Tee Higgins. Those two, along with Tyler Boyd, have the potential to form one of the top wide receiver trios in the league.”

Four More Overrated, Underrated NFL Teams

As for the other overrated teams, Treash calls out the Buffalo Bills, saying “Buffalo is in a similar boat to Pittsburgh—you can count on the defense being one of the best in the NFL, but the offense is on shaky ground.” His other most underrated team is in the NFC North—the Green Bay Packers.

The other two underrated teams are the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. Treash says “the Lions have a realistic shot at winning the NFC North with a healthy Matthew Stafford.” As for Dallas, he says, “Most see the Cowboys as a one-and-done playoff team, but I see them as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.”

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