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2018

AFC North

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Odds to Win

There were no surprises in the AFC North last year as the Steelers won the division by four games after entering the season as a -165 favorite. They are an even bigger favorite in 2018 with the Bengals dropping off and the Ravens in about the same spot as last season when they finished in second place at 9-7.

 

Odds to win AFC North

Courtesy of 5dimes (mid August)

Pittsburgh Steelers -240 (field wins +210)

Baltimore Ravens +410

Cincinnati Bengals +1000

Cleveland Browns +1050

It’s nothing new for the Pittsburgh Steelers (over/under 10.5) with their numbers at about the same as a year ago. Ben Roethlisberger is still slinging the ball around with two of the most talented offensive players in the league between Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Throw in JuJu Smith-Schuster in his second year and rookie James Washington and there’s no reason this group will fall off with the offensive line still elite. But what got the Steelers to 13 wins was a defense that finished No. 9 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. They should be just as good with a young core up front and a few others added to help from linebacker Jon Bostic to safeties Morgan Burnett and rookie Terrell Edmunds. Pittsburgh has a complete team, something no one else in the division can say.

The Baltimore Ravens (over/under 8.5) have close to the same over/under as last season, although were projected to finish third. The only reason they have the second-best odds is because the Bengals are now an afterthought. Baltimore will ride with Joe Flacco for one more season and Lamar Jackson could find his way into the starting lineup if things don’t work out in the first half of the year. There are pieces to like about the group, but the offense had no spark outside of running back Alex Collins and the addition of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown in the passing game won’t change much. The return of Marshal Yanda should be huge, though. Defensively, the Ravens didn't need to add anything after being one of the best in the NFL last season. There are playmakers all around from CJ Mosley and Matt Judon at linebacker to Eric Weddle and Jimmy Smith in the secondary.

The same can’t be said for the Cincinnati Bengals (over/under 7) because there’s little excitement surrounding the team. It’s still the same core of guys led by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Sure, Joe Mixon will probably take up a bigger role at running back this year, but he won’t turn the offense elite by himself. Their goal should be to get more consistent and that will require help from guys like John Ross and oft-injured tight end Tyler Eifert. The defense was mediocre last year and only added middle linebacker Preston Brown to help their efforts. It’s a decent group with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap on the line and Dre Kirkpatrick and George Iloka in the secondary, but they had trouble against the run last year and didn’t do a ton in the offseason to improve that.  

A big talking point in the offseason has been the Cleveland Browns (over/under 6), which aren’t far behind the Bengals in terms of odds. Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield immediately give them a better playmaker under center, while Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson form a nice trio out of the backfield. The offense could prove to be dynamic if Josh Gordon is available for all 16 games. Even then, they still have Jarvis Landry, impressive rookie Antonio Callaway and tight end David Njoku. To surpass their win total, the defense has to be better and it could be with everyone another year older to go with a revamped secondary. Myles Garrett could be a beast on the line, but there are questions around him since this defense was one of the worst in the league last year. 

If the Ravens figure out how to move the ball consistently on offense, they’d be a real threat to the Steelers. But with Flacco at quarterback, it’s hard to back them. And so, once again, Pittsburgh appears to be the best bet in the AFC North with Roethlisberger on his last legs.

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