NFL Handicapping: The AFC North
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NFL Handicapping Insight
The Cleveland Browns haven’t won their division in 30 years. 1989 was the last time the Browns topped their division rivals. The NFL landscape looked very different then, but now the team is installed as the favorite to win the AFC North after going 0-16 just three years ago.
2019 AFC North Predictions: Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals Odds to Win 2019 Super Bowl: +15000
Bengals Odds to Win 2019 AFC Conference: +5000
Bengals Odds to Win 2019 AFC North Division: +1500
It’s a new day in Cincinnati, with Marvin Lewis’s 16-year run as head coach coming to an end. It was a productive time for a franchise that hadn’t enjoyed a lot of success before he got there. Now the core of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have something to prove, and Green is already hurt.
Zac Taylor takes over as the team’s head coach, so how Dalton performs could serve as the measuring stick to the kind of success he’s having in the job. The offensive line will be a problem, but the defensive line remains one of the stronger units in football. This team did start 4-1 a year ago, so maybe there’s something there.
2019 AFC North Predictions: Cleveland Browns
Browns Odds to Win 2019 Super Bowl: +1500
Browns Odds to Win 2019 AFC Conference: +700
Browns Odds to Win 2019 AFC North Division: +150
The Browns have been the darlings of the offseason, brining in top-end talents in players like Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon, and Sheldon Richardson. Couple that with the emergence of Baker Mayfield, and John Dorsey’s put a lot of pressure on rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens to get some results in Cleveland.
This remains a team that does not have a culture of winning in that locker room, so some mentalities will need to be adjusted in the locker room, but the difference in talent from that 0-16 team is remarkable. The pressure’s on in Cleveland, which is not something we’ve seen there in years.
2019 AFC North Predictions: Baltimore Ravens
Ravens Odds to Win 2019 Super Bowl: +5000
Ravens Odds to Win 2019 AFC Conference: +2000
Ravens Odds to Win 2019 AFC North Division: +400
Changing from a completely stationary quarterback in Joe Flacco to a dynamic player like Lamar Jackson mid-season is a huge change, but the Ravens were able to adjust and make the most of it, winning the North and earning a playoff spot a year ago, even if they didn’t last long in the playoffs.
John Harbaugh will continue to patrol the sidelines, though mainstays Flacco, Terrell Suggs, and C.J. Mosley are gone. Mark Ingram should pair nicely with Jackson in the backfield to provide a boost to the team’s running game.
2019 AFC North Predictions: Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers Odds to Win 2019 Super Bowl: +2000
Steelers Odds to Win 2019 AFC Conference: +850
Steelers Odds to Win 2019 AFC North Division: +150
The Steelers have seen the departure of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown over the last two seasons, but there’s still a ton of talent around Ben Roethlisberger in that offense, with James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster seemingly ready to step into larger roles.
The defense should be good at getting to the quarterback once again, adding Devin Bush in the first round, who looks like exactly the kind of player that unit needed. The Steelers have definitely heard all the buzz around the Browns this offseason, and you just know that, coupled with last season’s disappointing finish, will motivate this team to get back to the postseason.
Cappers Picks 2019 AFC North Predictions
The Browns are the hype team entering the season, but there were a lot of moving parts for this team, and a rookie head coach will be trying to piece them all together. We’ve seen teams win the free agency arms race and then disappoint before, and this could be another edition of that. Either way, all the attention the Browns received in the offseason has robbed them of any potential value on the futures board.
All that buzz around the Browns should serve to motivate the Ravens and Steelers. The Steelers in particular should return with a renewed focus. They’re the team to back in the North.
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