As they have for the past two seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars should battle it out for the division title. Steelers QB Kordell Stewart returns for his second year as a starter after a rousing success in his first. He was perhaps the league's most effective QB and, frighteningly, is still improving. It doesn't hurt that he also has big bruising back Jerome Bettis in the backfield. "The Bus" rolled for 1,665 yards last year and should take the Steelers for a ride again in 1998.
Jacksonville will counter with a tremendous young talent of its own. Mark Brunell has developed into one of the league's top quarterbacks with his arm strength and scrambling skills. Once considered a poor man's Steve Young, he may very well have turned Young into a poor man's Mark Brunell. He has all the weapons he'll need in receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, and should be well protected by a burly offensive line anchored by third-year tackle Tony Boselli (6-7, 325 pounds).
The Tennessee Oilers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are all solid teams, but with the talent in the AFC, none are likely to make the playoffs. For the Oilers to have any chance for the postseason, QB Steve "Air" McNair needs to "arrive" and take some of the offensive burden off workhorse back Eddie George. If he does, the Oilers could break the .500 mark.
The Bengals finally found a feature back in Corey Dillon, after being burned by 1995 number one overall pick Ki-jana Carter. They are, however, embroiled in a heated quarterback controversy as Neil O'Donnell has assumed the starting position over the talented but struggling Jeff Blake.
The Ravens simply replaced one aging QB (Testaverde) and with a different aging QB (Jim Harbaugh). Harbaugh should at least take a less severe beating than he had with his former team, the Colts, and could light a spark, something the Ravens really haven't had since leaving Cleveland.