Wager Alarm NFL Best Bets - AFC North Futures
Jon Impemba takes an early look at the AFC North and breaks down the Vegas odds for each team
Let’s just get this over with quick shall we? The Baltimore Ravens are the favorites to win the AFC North by a wide margin as they sit as -200 favorites with the next best team clocking in at +350 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore loaded up on defense this offseason with the looking to build upon the breakout season from NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. The Browns are sitting at +450 with the Bengals with the longest of long shot odds at +2500. Let’s go ahead and dive into this one a little bit deeper.
Baltimore Ravens: -200 / Win Total O/U: 11.5 (-105/-115)
The Ravens went 14-2 and took the No.1 seed in the AFC last season behind the explosion of Lamar Jackson who silenced critics from the get and finished with an MVP worthy season in which he completed 66.1-percent of his passes with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions while adding 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Baltimore’s only two losses during the regular season came against the Chiefs and Browns during Weeks 3 and 4. After that they rattled off 12 straight wins before suffering an upset loss in the playoffs to the Tennessee Titans. Given the state of the NFC North it seems unlikely, barring injury or serious regression from Lamar Jackson, that they do not run away with this division yet again. You can lock in two wins against the Bengals with ease. After that you have a Steelers team that will still have questions at QB with Big Ben another year older and coming off major surgery and a Browns team that has yet to live up to the hype and will have yet another new head coach to start the season making it three in three seasons.
Lock in the Ravens at -200 and I will even go with the over 11.5 wins here which is marked at just -105 with Vegas suggesting the under as the more likely scenario.
If the Stars Align
Cleveland Browns: +450 / Win Total O/U: 8.5 (-105/-115)
Look, the talent is theoretically here on offense and at times it flashes elite potential. In 2019 the coach Freddie Kitchens made some mind-boggling decisions which did more harm than good but that is not to let the players off the hook. The facts are simple. We saw better performances from Baker Mayfield in his commercials than we did from him on the actual football field and if Cleveland is ever going to be anything that is going to have to change. In his sophomore season Mayfield completed just 59.4-percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. No team entered 2019 with more hype after the Browns went out and acquired Odell Beckham Jr. following their strong finish to 2018. Unfortunately, OBJ didn’t quite click as he dealt with an injury for most of the year. 2020 gives the Browns a big shot at redemption as the offense added yet another weapon in Austin Hooper to replace the inconsistent David Njoku at tight end. The team still has an elite backfield duo with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and oh yeah Jarvis Landry and the aforementioned OBJ have not gone anywhere. If Mayfield can live up to his own hype then this team can put up points and compete.
Of any other team in this division I would throw a few bones here at +450. If I was forced to bet the win total I would also take the over but I think this team is destined to be a 9-7 or 7-9 type of team.
Pittsburgh Steelers: +350 / Win Total O/U: 9.5 (+100/-120)
There is just something about the Steelers that doesn’t do it for me. To me they aren’t any better than the Browns when push comes to shove and you get the Browns at better odds. Mike Tomlin has been public that he expects Ben Roethlisberger to be ready to go for Week 1 but what is that going to look like? He is a 38-year old QB coming off major elbow surgery. I don’t imagine that turning out too well. Behind Big Ben is Mason Rudolph who is also coming off surgery and was very mediocre in replacing Roethlisberger last season. I know Pittsburgh still managed to win games last season as they finished 8-8 and Vegas is likely assuming the return of Roethlisberger would put the team back in contention, but I am not buying it. Take the under on the win total at -120.
Cincinnati Bengals: +2500 / Win Total O/U: 5.5 (-110/-110)
This would be one of the unlikeliest scenarios in all of sports but hey crazier things have happened right? The Bengals are in a prime position for the mere fact that they are sitting with the No.1 overall pick in the draft this season and are expected to take Joe Burrow with that selection. The success of an NFL franchise is largely impacted by the level of play at the quarterback position. If Burrow comes into the league and lights it up then the ceiling this team can reach will be greater. Cinci still has an elite running back in Joe Mixon and receivers Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green are expected to be ready to go for the start of the year. I’d consider an over bet on the 5.5 wins.