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>Baltimore Ravens

Last playoff appearance: 2011 (lost in conference championship)

Longest playoff drought: 4 seasons (1996-99)

Other notable drought: The Ravens have had just one Pro Bowl wide receiver, Jermaine Lewis, since the franchise's inception in 1996.

How they can win the division: Quarterback Joe Flacco steps up in a contract year and forms a solid run-pass combination with Ray Rice.

How they can fall to third in the division: The absence of stud pass rusher Terrell Suggs (14 1/2 sacks) and defensive end Cory Redding is too much for the defense to overcome.

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>Pittsburgh Steelers

Last playoff appearance: 2011 (lost in wild card round)

Longest playoff drought: 24 seasons (1948-71)

Other notable drought: Pittsburgh went 0-2 against rival Baltimore last season.

They'll make the postseason for the ninth time in 12 seasons if: Third-year nose tackle Steve McLendon and second-year end Cam Heyward step up and help the defense maintain its usual greatness.

The biggest concern is: The offensive line, as it has been the past few years. It lost promising rookie David DeCastro in the preseason against the Bills, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been able to mask some of those deficiencies.

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>Cincinnati Bengals

Last playoff appearance: 2011 (lost in wild card round)

Longest playoff drought: 14 seasons (1991-04)

Other notable drought: Bengals haven't won a playoff game since 1990.

They'll make a return trip to the playoffs if: Quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green take a step up in their second seasons and a young defense comes of age.

They'll struggle to get to .500 if: This schedule proves where they truly are. The Bengals beat only one team that finished last season with a winning record and went 0-8 against other teams that reached the playoffs.

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>Cleveland Browns

Last playoff appearance: 2002 (lost in wild card round)

Longest playoff drought: Current

Other notable drought: The Browns have lost at least 10 games in eight of the last nine years.

They'll get to six wins if: Rookie running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden turn around a woeful offense that produced just 218 points last season.

Why they'll pick in the top five again: The usual meat grinder of the AFC North and a tough crossover against the NFC East provide few chances for a breather.