2019 AFC North Odds, Picks & Predictions
The Pittsburgh Steelers have run roughshod upon all opposition within the AFC North over the last four seasons. Over that stretch, Mike Tomlin’s troops have won the division three times in four tries. The lone time they failed to do so came back in 2015-16 when Ben Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury that forced him to miss five games.
The AFC North has essentially been a three-team division in terms of competitiveness over the past few decades, but thanks to a major roster overhaul in Cleveland, the Browns are now the favorites to win the division in 2019. Who saw that coming a year ago?
Cleveland is the +125 front-runner at Bovada to capture the division for the first time since the team returned to Ohio in 1999. The Pittsburgh Steelers (+195), Baltimore Ravens (+275) and Cincinnati Bengals (+1600) round things out at the shop.
Who will be crowned champion of the AFC North in 2019:
Cleveland Browns (+125)
The Browns have never started a season with the best odds to win their division, but these are not the same old Browns. General manager John Dorsey continued to reshape the team in the offseason by trading for Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon and signing Kareem Hunt and Sheldon Richardson. Building off last year’s 7-8-1 SU record – a great year by past Browns’ standards – this team could be scary in 2019.
Rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens has been given the keys to the Browns, and he already has a franchise QB in place in Baker Mayfield. With talent everywhere you look on offense and standout defensive players like Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and Christian Kirksey on the other side of the ball, the timing could be right for the Browns to finally win their own division.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+195)
As much as things have swung in a positive direction for the Browns, it’s been the opposite story for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has been synonymous with consistency in recent history, yet the 2018 edition of the Steelers was anything but that.
The drama surrounding Le’Veon Bell’s holdout is in the past with the running back signing with the New York Jets in free agency, while former No. 1 wide receiver Antonio Brown is also off the team after getting traded to Oakland. That means youngsters James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster will have to step up in their absence, and they’re good enough to do so.
Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is still here, and he’ll be motivated to have a big season under head coach Mike Tomlin. It’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen to the Steelers in 2019, but if you think they can get things back on track with the drama behind them, they’re a great choice to win the AFC North at +195.
Baltimore Ravens (+275)
Baltimore’s remarkable run to the postseason a year ago under rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson was one of the best stories of the 2018 regular season, and the run-heavy Ravens are primed to be a fun team to watch this season.
With longtime signal-caller Joe Flacco getting dealt to Denver, this is Jackson’s team now. The youth movement on offense also features rookie wideouts Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, so expect some growing pains out of the gate in Maryland.
The defense took a hit with the losses of Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs in free agency, yet general manager Eric DeCosta did a nice job by getting Earl Thomas, Shane Ray and Jaylon Ferguson to help ease the pain. With a friendly schedule, look for the Ravens to post a winning record on the gridiron.
Cincinnati Bengals (+1600)
The Bengals are one of the toughest teams to figure out in the NFL right now. Cincinnati finally let go of longtime head coach Marvin Lewis in favor of Sean McVay disciple Zac Taylor, and the offense should be much better under the offensive-minded Taylor.
Andy Dalton, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green are more than capable of putting up points, but the biggest issue for the Bengals will be stopping opposing teams from doing the same thing. Cincy’s defense was one of the worst units in the league a year ago and will likely struggle once again.
The Bengals have a brutal first half of the schedule with five road games in their first eight weeks before the bye, so this team will be tested early and often. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re going to be much of a factor in the competitive AFC North, so don’t even consider their +1600 price to win the banner.