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2009 NFL Future Odds: AFC North Lines

AFC NORTH PREVIEW

The Steelers swept their three division rivals a year ago en route to their record sixth Super Bowl title. Pittsburgh allowed the fewest points in the NFL, and that dominating defense will allow it to keep the Steel Crew at the top of the heap, despite a mediocre offense. Head coach John Harbaugh has Baltimore moving in the right direction, and young quarterback Joe Flacco proved his mettle by leading the Ravens to two playoff victories on the road. Cincinnati finished an ugly campaign on a high note by winning its final three games, but can Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco play nice together? It won’t matter unless the defense can step it up a notch.

Cleveland has a new coach in former Jets sideline boss Eric Mangini, but the same problems remain. The Browns rushed for just six touchdowns last year, and Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn will be battling for the starting quarterback job all summer long.

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2009 PREDICTED FINISH
1) Pittsburgh
2) Baltimore
3) Cincinnati
4) Cleveland

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

2008 Record: 15-4 SU (11.1 ML Units), 11-8 ATS
2008 Totals (Over-Under): 11-8

Odds to win Super Bowl XLIV: +1000, AFC Title: +450
Sportsbooks Regular Season Wins Prop: Over 10.5 (-140) / Under 10.5 (+110)

StatFox Steve’s Take: Pittsburgh managed to win another Super Bowl despite less than stellar play from its offensive line. The Steelers couldn’t protect QB Ben Roethlisberger and couldn’t run like usual either. I also think the personnel losses in the offseason outweigh the gains. Unless the defense is record-setting once again, I have a hard time seeing this team beat 10.5 wins.

TOP STATFOX HANDICAPPING ANGLES
PITTSBURGH is 25-17 SU & 28-10 ATS in their last 42 games vs. excellent teams (>75%)
PITTSBURGH is 37-12 SU & 35-14 ATS in their last 49 games vs. good passing QB (>7 PYA)
Over the last three seasons, PITTSBURGH is on a slide of 5-7 SU & 2-10 ATS when coming off a game scoring >=30 pts.
Over the last two seasons, PITTSBURGH is just 1-6 SU & 0-7 ATS on the road when coming off a win

2009 OUTLOOK
The last time Pittsburgh was the defending champion, in 2006, it stumbled out of the gate with a 2-6 start and finished .500 and out of the playoffs. One thing they have going for them this time around is a much softer schedule. After tackling the league’s toughest slate, head coach Mike Tomlin’s team will play one of the three easiest based on last year’s records. On paper, only Baltimore appears capable of challenging the Steelers for AFC North supremacy. No team had won back-to-back division titles before last season when Pittsburgh went 12-4, including 6-0 against their biggest rivals. Lawrence Timmons takes over for Larry Foote at inside linebacker which could make the defense even scarier, if you can believe that. They know all too well what can happen in the wake of a championship, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll fail to get 10 wins and go deep in the playoffs as long as no serious injuries arise.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

2008 Record: 13-6 SU (8.55 ML Units), 14-5 ATS
2008 Totals (Over-Under): 11-8

Odds to win Super Bowl XLIV: +2000, AFC Title: +900
Sportsbook’s Regular Season Wins Prop: Over 8.5 (-185) / Under 8.5 (+145)
StatFox Steve’s Take: After last year’s successful season, I believe it is Baltimore, not Pittsburgh, who is the team to beat in the AFC North. The Ravens’ StatFox Power Rating is #1 in the NFL, their Outplay Factor Rating was #2 in ’08. That adds up to double-digit wins once again.

TOP STATFOX HANDICAPPING ANGLES
BALTIMORE is 54-15 SU & 42-25 ATS in their last 70 games as a home favorite
BALTIMORE is on a 0-7 SU & ATS skid on road when the total is 38.5-42
Over the L3 seasons, BALTIMORE is on a slide of 5-7 SU & 2-10 ATS vs. bad rushing D (>130 RY)
BALTIMORE is on a 15-3 SU & 14-4 ATS run at home vs. poor defenses (>=5.65 YPP)

2009 OUTLOOK
It’s been feast or famine for the Ravens since they won Super Bowl XXXV. They’ve reached the playoffs four times since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and also suffered through a couple of horror shows, most notably in 2007 when they plummeted to the bottom of the AFC North after a 13-win campaign. Nobody expected the Ravens to dust themselves off so quickly. Yet with a rookie head coach (John Harbaugh) and a rookie quarterback (Joe Flacco) they not only earned a wild-card berth by going 11-5 but played for the conference championship. It’ll be interesting to see what Flacco, the only first-year signal-caller to win two playoff games, can do for an encore. With a better grasp of what defenses will send his way, along with an improved offensive line, Flacco should be able to avoid the sophomore jinx. Online Sports Betting at Sportsbook If the defense can overcome the loss of its beloved coordinator (Rex Ryan) and difference makers like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, who are with the New York Jets, the Ravens could make back-to-back playoff appearances for the second time in franchise history.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

2008 Record: 4-11-1 SU (-3.9 ML Units), 7-9 ATS
2008 Totals (Over-Under): 5-10

Odds to win Super Bowl XLIV: +7500, AFC Title: +4000
Sportsbook’s Regular Season Wins Prop: Over 7 (-130) / Under 7 (+100)

StatFox Steve’s Take: This team faces a very difficult first five weeks of the season and thus I believe will be very fortunate to reach the 7-win mark.

TOP STATFOX HANDICAPPING ANGLES
Over the last 2 seasons, CINCINNATI is 2-9 SU & ATS on the road against conference opponents
CINCINNATI is on a 0-6 SU & ATS run as a underdog of 3.5 to 10 pts.
CINCINNATI is 11-19 SU & 8-22 ATS at home in their last 30 games in the first month of the season
Over the last three seasons, CINCINNATI is 1-9 SU & ATS vs. good defenses (<17 PPG)

2009 OUTLOOK
While the Bengals started to clean up some of their tired act off the field, they didn’t enjoy too many positives on it until the second half of 2008. With quarterback Carson Palmer absent for all but four games, they didn’t visit the win column until Nov. 2 and finished with double-digit losses for the first time since ’02. But for all the problems Cincinnati endured, it enters the new season riding a three-game winning streak that saw the defense allow a total of 19 points. Head coach Marvin Lewis can use the positive finish as motivation when training camp breaks. The absence of T.J. Houshmanzadeh (Seahawks) is sure to be felt, but the offense will be productive as long as Palmer plays. Everything comes down to Palmer’s elbow. If he’s good for the full 16, the Bengals will put up points in spite of a questionable backfield and win between six-to-nine games. If the injury flares up again, Lewis will be hard-pressed to keep his team out of the AFC North basement barring major improvement on defense.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

2008 Record: 4-12 SU (-5.3 ML Units), 6-9 ATS
2008 Totals (Over-Under): 6-9

Odds to win Super Bowl XLIV: +7500, AFC Title: +4000
Sportsbook’s Regular Season Wins Prop: Over 6.5 (+100) / Under 6.5 (-130)
StatFox Steve’s Take: The Browns have questions marks at positions all over the field and are beginning anew under Eric Mangini in 2009. This all adds up to a rebuilding season, one which will not produce more than six wins.

TOP STATFOX HANDICAPPING ANGLES
Over the last two seasons, CLEVELAND is 8-1 SU & ATS as a favorite
CLEVELAND is on a 12-3 ATS run vs. winning teams
CLEVELAND is on a 7-0 SU & ATS run when coming off a road loss
CLEVELAND is 5-1 SU & 6-0 ATS on the road when coming off a road loss over the last three seasons

2009 OUTLOOK
Even the NFL schedule makers thought Cleveland would contend for a playoff spot in 2008 off the heels of a 10-win season. They placed the Browns in five primetime games and turned out half of their victories came under the lights. So after an embarrassing 4-12 campaign that ended with a thud (31 points scored in a six-game losing streak), both general manager Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel were let go. Eric Mangini, fired by the New York Jets, is the Browns’ fourth head coach since they re-entered the league in 1999. He and new general manager George Kokinis will try to get the most out of a roster filled with question marks. On paper, the schedule isn’t as difficult but nothing will come easy for the Browns. Mangini would be wise to nip any quarterback controversy between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn in the bud and give the offense every opportunity to jell and forget about last year’s finish. Six victories would be considered a step in the right direction.

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Comments

Comments

  1. I know that it only preseason, but I have watched both of Baltimore’s preseason games and they look to be in regular season form. I think there defense carries them past the Steelers in the AFC North.

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