2018 AFC North Divisional Futures Predictions
The 2018 NFL preseason is finally in full swing and the NFL regular season start just about 30 days. We will be diving into each division and use futures to make few predictions. Divisional futures are one of the more fun betting markets and offer a better short of a return than AFC and NFC title and Super Bowl futures. We’ll break down each division as we lead up to the season, starting today with the AFC North.
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Betting Odds to win the American Football Conference North Division
- Pittsburgh Steelers -225
- Baltimore Ravens +375
- Cincinnati Bengals +800
- Cleveland Browns +900
Pittsburgh Steelers -225
The Steelers dominate the AFC North each year. They took the crown last season with a 13-3 record, ultimately losing the Jaguars in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The only major change in the coaching staff is Todd Haley. The now ex-Pittsburgh offensive coordinator has gone on to become the OC in Cleveland. Wide receiver, Martavis Bryant was traded to Oakland, but he was only a part-time player, anyway. Safety Mike Mitchel was let go, and the Steelers brought in former-Packer, Morgan Burnett. Running back, Le’Veon Bell, is sitting out training camp due to a contract dispute but will be ready Week 1.
Baltimore Ravens +375
The Ravens were in the division hunt for much of the season but couldn’t finish down the stretch and missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record. They promoted Don Martingale to defensive coordinator after he was the linebackers’ coach last season. Baltimore took quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round, but he’s not expected to challenge Flacco this season. Most notably, they upgraded at receiver, adding Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead to what was a lackluster unit last season. Gone are Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. Baltimore also addressed their need at tight end, drafting Hayden Hurst with the 25th overall pick.
Cincinnati Bengals +800
After making the playoffs the previous year, the Bengals finished 7-9 in 2017 which put them third in the division. Marvin Lewis returns along with OC Bill Lazor, but Cincinnati did pick up former-Lions defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin. The offense and defense look familiar from last season, but they addressed a major need in the draft and free agency with an upgrade to their offensive line. By taking center, Billy Price, with the 21st overall pick in the draft and signing free agent left tackle, Cordy Glenn.
Cleveland Browns +900
Hue Jackson managed to keep his job after a 0-16 season last year. The Browns will have to do much better for him to make it through the 2018 season. Former Steelers’ offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, a proven OC, in several spots should help. Cleveland traded for Tyrod Taylor and drafted Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick. Taylor will begin the season as the starter. They also signed former Dolphins’ wide receiver, Jarvis Landry. The defensive also got a few upgrades with cornerbacks T.J. Carrie, E.J. Gaines and Damarious Randall.
2018 NFL AFC North Divisional Pick – Baltimore Ravens +375
Pittsburgh is the odds-on favorite to win the division this year, but I am not sure that is justified. Their schedule is brutal, with a tough draw against the NFC South in divisional play and battles against the AFC’s best teams, including the Patriots, Jaguars, and Chiefs. Not to mention, the entire division has gotten better.
The Steelers’ defense was their Achilles heel last season, and I have not seen enough in the draft or in free agency to think that is going to change this season. Mike Tomlin is incapable of making in-game adjustments, as we saw in their playoff loss to the Jaguars. Also, it’s a bit too presumptuous to assume that the offense will work just as well under Randy Fichtner as it did under Todd Haley.
I’m not willing to put the Bengals and Browns in the same category as the Ravens (or Steelers), but they have both improved drastically in the offseason. I don’t think either of these teams can win the division just yet, but they will make it much harder for Pittsburgh to steamroll through their divisional games. One of my favorite over/under win total bets is the Browns over 5.5 wins.
Baltimore’s weakness last season was their lackluster receivers. I do believe they address that this season with their additions. None of those guys are elite talents, but they are far better than pathetic targets Flacco had to throw to last season. The Ravens also have an excellent running game, the best kicker in the NFL, and a strong defense. While I realize Pittsburgh went 13-3 last season – it was about the weakness 13-3 season in the history of the franchise. I was not shocked to see them decimated by the Jaguars in the playoffs. In fact, I bet on it. At nearly +400, I like the Ravens in this spot and wouldn’t argue with a half-unit wager on the Bengals or Browns.
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