Baltimore Ravens

1998 result: 6-10, fourth in division.

Coach: Brian Billick, first NFL season.

Key acquisitions: QB Tony Banks (Rams), QB Scott Mitchell (Lions), WR Qadry Ismail (Saints), T Harry Swayne (Broncos), CB Chris McAlister (first-round draft pick, Arizona).

Key losses: T Orlando Brown (Browns), TE Eric Green (Jets), QB Jim Harbaugh (Chargers), C Wally Williams (Saints), DT James Jones (Lions).

Outlook: Billick was hailed as a genius for creating the Vikings' offensive juggernaut. But instead of working with Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss and Cris Carter, Billick now has Mitchell (or Banks), Ismail and Jermaine Lewis. Baltimore doesn't have the talent of Minnesota, although last year Lewis joined the Packers' Antonio Freeman as the first NFL players since Billy Johnson in 1977 to score six TDs of more than 50 yards in one season. The Ravens are somewhat solid at wide receiver and linebacker. Priest Holmes isn't the type of back to lead a potent running attack, the offensive line is weak between the tackles, and the secondary is old and slow with the exception of McAlister, who is young, fast and talented.



12 at St. Louis, 1

19 Pittsburgh, 1

26 Cleveland, 1


3 at Atlanta, 1

10 at Tennessee, 4:15

17 Open date

21 Kansas City, 8:20

31 Buffalo, 1


7 at Cleveland, 1

14 at Jacksonville, 4:05

21 at Cincinnati, 4:05

28 Jacksonville, 1


5 Tennessee, 1

12 at Pittsburgh, 1

19 New Orleans, 1

26 Cincinnati, 1


2 at New England, 1

Cincinnati Bengals

1998 result: 3-13, fifth in division.

Coach: Bruce Coslet, 17-24 in three seasons with Bengals (43-62 in seven seasons overall).

Key acquisitions: QB Akili Smith (first-round draft pick, Oregon), G Brian DeMarco (Jaguars), G Matt O'Dwyer (Jets).

Key losses: QB Neil O'Donnell (released, Titans), CB Ashley Ambrose (Saints), DE Clyde Simmons (Bears), S Sam Shade (Redskins), RB Eric Bieniemy (Eagles).

Outlook: The Bengals haven't made the playoffs since 1990, they're competing with the Rams for the worst record of the decade and a new stadium is being built. That adds up to pressure on Coslet. QB Jeff Blake, who survived the offseason purge that involved the release of O'Donnell and Paul Justin, knows he must produce quickly or be replaced by Smith, even though Smith missed most of training camp because of contract negotiations. Blake won't be helped by WR Carl Pickens's holdout (he could sit out the season), but Darnay Scott has been longing to break from Pickens's shadow. RBs Corey Dillon and Ki-Jana Carter make a great combo but both are often hurt. The linebackers, led by Takeo Spikes, are powerful, but the defense gave up an NFL-worst 28.3 points per game last season.



12 at Tennessee, 1

19 San Diego, 1

26 at Carolina, 1


3 St. Louis, 1

10 at Cleveland, 1

17 Pittsburgh, 1

24 at Indianapolis, 1

31 Jacksonville, 1


7 at Seattle, 4:15

14 Tennessee, 1

21 Baltimore, 4:05

28 at Pittsburgh, 1


5 San Francisco, 1

12 Cleveland, 1

19 Open date

26 at Baltimore, 1


2 at Jacksonville, 1

Jacksonville Jaguars

1998 result: 11-5, first in division (defeated Patriots in first round, lost to Jets in AFC semifinals).

Coach: Tom Coughlin, 35-29 in four years with the Jaguars.

Key acquisitions: Defensive coordinator Dom Capers (Panthers), TE Kyle Brady (Jets), DB Carnell Lake (Steelers), DT Gary Walker (Titans), CB Fernando Bryant (first-round draft pick, Alabama), DT Larry Smith (second-round pick, Florida State).

Key losses: FB Zack Crockett (Raiders), G Brian DeMarco (Bengals), DL John Jurkovic (Browns), TE Pete Mitchell (Giants), DL Jeff Lageman (retired).

Outlook: The Jaguars are picked by many to reach the Super Bowl, but can they win it with a defense that was ranked 22nd against the run and 23rd against the pass? Enter Capers -- who brings a more aggressive style -- and nine new defensive line or secondary acquisitions. The offense will be fine shape if QB Mark Brunell stays healthy (he hurt his ankle late last season and was never the same afterward). He has a great pair of wide receivers, Jimmy Smith, who leads the NFL in receiving yards over the past three years, and Keenan McCardell. In addition, RB Fred Taylor was the NFL's leading rookie rusher last season. The Jaguars are strong favorites to win the division, but a trip to the Super Bowl will depend on the defense.



12 San Francisco, 4:15

19 at Carolina, 1

26 Tennessee, 4:05


3 at Pittsburgh, 1

11 at N.Y. Jets, 9

17 Cleveland, 1

24 Open date

31 at Cincinnati, 1


7 at Atlanta, 1

14 Baltimore, 4:05

21 New Orleans, 8:20

28 at Baltimore, 1


2 Pittsburgh, 8:20

13 Denver, 9

19 at Cleveland, 1

26 at Tennessee, 1


2 Cincinnati, 1

Pittsburgh Steelers

1998 result: 7-9, third in division.

Coach: Bill Cowher, 71-41 in seven seasons with the Steelers.

Key acquisitions: Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride (Chargers), WR Troy Edwards (first-round draft pick, Louisiana Tech), T Anthony Brown (Bengals), S Travis Davis (Jaguars), WR Alex Van Dyke (Jets), T Wayne Grady (Rams).

Key losses: WR Charles Johnson (Eagles), DB Carnell Lake (Jaguars), T Will Wolford (retired), S Darren Perry (Chargers), LB Donta Jones (Panthers), DT Oliver Gibson (Bengals).

Outlook: The Steelers missed the playoffs last season for the first time under Cowher, and QB Kordell Stewart was blamed. He had his worst year as a pro, throwing 11 TDs and 18 INTs with a 62.9 rating. But the offense never called for deep passes (thus negating Stewart's biggest asset -- his strong arm), and the line gave up 35 sacks and enabled RB Jerome Bettis to average just 3.8 yards per carry. Gilbride has spread out the offense, calling for many more deep routes. There is still no top deep-threat wide receiver, but Edwards is promising. The secondary took two hits when Lake and Perry left, but got a boost with the return of CB Chad Scott (Maryland), who missed the '98 season with a torn knee ligament. The linebackers, led by Levon Kirkland and Earl Holmes, are among the NFL's best.



12 at Cleveland, 8:20

19 at Baltimore, 1

26 Seattle, 1


3 Jacksonville, 1

10 at Buffalo, 1

17 at Cincinnati, 1

25 Atlanta, 9

31 Open date


7 at San Fran., 4:15

14 Cleveland, 1

21 at Tennessee, 1

28 Cincinnati, 1


2 at Jacksonville, 8:20

12 Baltimore, 1

18 at Kansas City, 12:40

26 Carolina, 1


2 Tennessee, 4:15

Tennessee Titans

1998 result: 8-8, second in division.

Coach: Jeff Fisher, 32-38 in five seasons with the Oilers/Titans.

Key acquisitions: DT Jason Fisk (Vikings), QB Neil O'Donnell (Bengals), FB Lorenzo Neal (Bucs), DT Mike Jones (Rams), DE Jevon Kearse (first-round draft pick, Florida), DT John Thornton (second-round pick, West Virginia).

Key losses: DT Anthony Cook (Redskins), LB Lonnie Marts and DT Gary Walker (Jaguars), C Mark Stepnoski (Cowboys), CB Darryll Lewis (released).

Outlook: The name, uniforms and stadium are new, but they won't help the Titans get their first winning season since 1993. What will help is a new offense emphasizing long passes. QB Steve McNair had just two completions of more than 40 yards last season, as the team relied on RB Eddie George. But by season's end, George was worn out (348 carries for 1,294 yards -- an average of 3.7 per carry) and the Titans lost four of their final six games. Underused WRs Yancey Thigpen, Kevin Dyson and Chris Sanders will see more action (none had more than 38 receptions, while halfback Frank Wycheck had 70, TE Jackie Harris 43 and George 37) and Neal will take some carries from George. The Titans had only 30 sacks last season, 27th in the league. Kearse is the centerpiece of a new defense.



12 Cincinnati, 1

19 Cleveland, 4:15

26 at Jacksonville, 4:05


3 at San Fran., 4:15

10 Baltimore, 4:15

17 at New Orleans, 1

24 Open date

31 St. Louis, 1


7 at Miami, 8:20

14 at Cincinnati, 1

21 Pittsburgh, 1

28 at Cleveland, 1


5 at Baltimore, 1

9 Oakland, 8:20

19 Atlanta, 1

26 Jacksonville, 1


2 at Pittsburgh, 4:15