AFC North prediction, odds | Yardbarker

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As we wait for training camp to begin in the NFL, we’re taking a look around the league the next two weeks to see how divisional odds shake out, along with the futures bets we like the most.

[Previous Editions: NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West | AFC East]

There’s an argument to be made that the AFC North is the most competitive division in football. We’ll get to the issues around betting this division as it relates to what is going on with Deshaun Watson in a bit, but throw that out the window for a moment.

The Cincinnati Bengals just made the Super Bowl and they are not even the favorites. Pittsburgh saw their franchise quarterback retire and they’re better off for it. I like what this division offers us as a football fan, and now we find the betting value.

To Win the AFC North Betting Odds

  1. Baltimore Ravens (+160 DK)
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (+190 DK)
  3. Cleveland Browns (+280 FD)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (+1000 DK)

The AFC North is admittedly difficult to project at this juncture in the offseason. The elephant in the room is the Watson situation. We’ll try to not delve too deep into what’s going on here, but any Watson suspension would alter things here. Cleveland shelled out quite a trove of assets and money to secure Watson’s talents, and he seems primed to miss some games in 2022.

Baltimore is the betting favorite despite an 8-9 season last year, odds that feel built on the market’s believe in Lamar Jackson. Meanwhile, Cincinnati, despite making it to the Super Bowl and having two superstars in Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase on rookie contracts, is +190 to win the division for the second straight season.

“Big Ben” called it a career this offseason, a move that frees up this Pittsburgh offense. I actually don’t hate the Steelers here at +1000, so let’s start there.

Pittsburgh Steelers: What to expect

Mitchell Trubisky is the starting quarterback for Pittsburgh, in case you didn’t know. The Steelers also drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round, a product of Pittsburgh, so perhaps the rookie wins the job this summer.

QB aside, this offense has some nice pieces. Najee Harris figures to continue being a workhorse back in this offense, and Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool form a solid WR tandem. I’m quite intrigued by what rookie receiver George Pickens brings to the table. Pickens is certainly a gifted athlete who made his share of big plays. Pat Freiermuth is an above-average tight end that should benefit from the offensive playmakers around him.

Pittsburgh’s Achilles heel last year was likely their offensive line, an area they’ve tried to improve with the free agent signings of guard James Daniel and center Mason Cole.

With 2021 Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt leading the defense, this team has my attention. This is the first team with the worst odds to win their division I’m seriously considering for a futures bet.

Cleveland Browns: What to expect

When are we going to know what Watson’s fate is this season? From a six-game suspension to a year-long ban to more, it remains to be seen what happens with the Browns’ new quarterback.

The one note on Watson would be that Cleveland has just one AFC North game scheduled in the first six weeks. A hypothetical six-game suspension would give the Browns a chance to still win games in the division, which would go a long way in a division as tight as this one.

There’s no denying how talented Watson is. People may not remember, but Watson was arguably a top-five quarterback you’d want to build your team around before everything started to pile up off the field.

If he’s playing, he’s going to lift up an offense that has quality pieces throughout.

Cleveland has talented defensive players, headlined by Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and John Johnson. However, it’s impossible to put money on a Browns future when we don’t know what’s going on with Watson.

Cincinnati Bengals: What to expect

Cincinnati’s +190 odds to win the division have some “Super Bowl appearance hangover” baked into it. 

We’ve seen team’s falter the year after losing the Super Bowl, though I’d argue recent groups like the 2019 New England Patriots and 2021 Kansas City Chiefs have bucked that trend a bit.

Burrow is nothing short of a gamer, and I’d argue the Bengals beat the Rams with a stronger offensive line. Cincinnati saw it too, investing premium resources into their line this offseason in an effort to keep their most important investment upright and healthy moving forward.

Chase was simply incredible as a rookie, and he, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd form a menacing WR trio that should give defenses fits in 2022.

The Bengals have a quality defense line, with their current concern on the defensive end a contract battle with All-Pro safety Jessie Bates. If Bates and the Bengals split before the year, that leaves quite a hole in the secondary.

The beauty of the Bengals this year and for the next few seasons is that Burrow and Chase can’t be paid what they’re worth yet. This gives Cincinnati the flexibility to invest in other areas. I expect the Bengals to maintain their spot as one of the AFC’s best.

Baltimore Ravens: What to expect

I’m trying to figure out why Baltimore is the favorite. They have a talented defense and aren’t too far removed from a 14-2 season.

I think Jackson takes too much hate. He is clearly a great quarterback. Still, his receivers have to be considered one of the worst groups in the NFL, which has me wondering how Baltimore keeps up. Is Rashod Bateman really about to explode? I guess it’s possible, and there’s no denying the talents of Mark Andrews and J.K. Dobbins, but I still just don’t get it.

The Ravens went 8-9 last year and finished in last. Is it perhaps the last-place schedule they draw that has bettors bullish on a bounce back from Baltimore? It’s a fair reason, but not enough for me to put my own money on them winning the AFC North.

Final betting word: AFC North

I think both Pittsburgh at +1000 and Cincinnati at +190 merit further conversation. Call me crazy, but the Steelers have remained one of the steadiest teams in the NFL under Mike Tomlin for over a decade and made the playoffs last year with a significant weakness at QB.

Trubisky just took a year to settle in behind Josh Allen after a disappointing start with the Chicago Bears. Is it possible we’re sleeping on him a bit? I’m willing to put some money on the Steelers at these odds, though I’d double the wager on Cincy.

Betting:

  • .25u: Pittsburgh +1000
  • .5u: Cincinnati +190



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