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Roger Goodell could change the landscape of the AFC North

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With a couple key players within the ranks of the AFC North facing potential suspensions, the length and severity of those sanctions could have huge ramifications not only for the team, but for the division.

Elsa

One player can make or break a game, and even a season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are no stranger to that theory as they've seen their franchise quarterback both suspended and often injured. The Steelers have seen seasons dwindle away due to injuries to key players at the most inopportune times.

Players get suspended every year, and if you follow the NFL headlines during these days between mini camp and training camp, you would have seen the recent rash of suspensions handed down from commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL league office.

Those suspensions, whether they were for two games, four games or even a season long suspension, will impact their respective team one way or another. If the player was a part of the 53 man roster for their football club, there is now an hole in that roster that was once filled.

How large of the hole depends on the player and the duration of the suspension.

The AFC North could be severely impacted by sanctions dealt from the league office in the near future. Two superstars on respective AFC North teams are facing their own fate in terms of how many games, if any, they will be permitted to be a part of in the 2014 season.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Josh Gordon, is certainly facing a lengthy suspension. Gordon failed a drug test that had league executives and insiders expecting a year long ban from the NFL. Recently, Gordon made another misstep by being arrested for a DWI in Raleigh, N.C., in the early morning hours of July 5.

Gordon's actions will most likely leave the Browns with a giant hole to fill in their starting lineup and a gigantic hole in their receiving corps. Gordon lead the NFL in receiving yards in 2013 with 1,646 yards, and now the Browns could be facing the challenge of trying to replace that production on a roster that is without a true No. 2 receiver.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was in the limelight for the wrong reason this offseason when Atlantic City hotel cameras caught the running back dragging his girlfriend's unconscious body out of an elevator and proceed to explain how his girlfriend, now wife, was left unconscious in the elevator.

Rice and his partner were arrested that night, and now he and the Ravens await news from Goodell in regards to any sanctions for the starting running back.

Rice is coming off a mediocre and injury plagued season, but his absence for any stretch of time will strap a team that is very thin at the running back position, and put them in a very difficult situation as an offense, a team and an organization.

There is nothing but uncertainty regarding Rice's potential punishment as players like Ben Roethlisberger were suspended six games, reduced to four games for good behavior, in 2010 and was never arrested for any off field transgressions.

Regardless of whether Rice and Gordon are suspended for one, two, three or more games is null and void considering the impact that these sanctions will have on their teams. The Browns will be forced to put a team together without their best offensive player. The Ravens will have to figure out a way to get by without their leading running back. All will severely weaken teams that are looking to vie for the AFC North crown in 2014.

Roger Goodell and the league office will certainly be making an impact on the AFC North this offseason, and the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are just happy that it isn't them waiting to hear any sanctions regarding their team.