2019 AFC North Betting Predictions

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The AFC North has been yawnsville for almost the entire last decade, but that’s all changed now that the Cleveland Browns have become a worthy opponent, surprisingly favored over the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and even the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, and that’s got the football world pumped, so here we take a look at the odds and predictions of the AFC North in 2019.

The football world is keeping its collective eyes on the AFC North this season, and that’s mostly due to the miraculous turnaround of the Cleveland Browns’ ala Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. that’s got them favored to win the division for the first time in what seems like forever.

Of course, the odds makers aren’t counting out Big Ben’s Pittsburgh Steelers or Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens, their odds of winning the AFC North just slightly less than Cleveland’s, but the physically healed Cincinnati Bengals have become the long shot thanks to their unimpressive 2018.

The AFC North is finally exciting to watch with possibly two of its teams in a position to snag a spot in the playoffs, and here we take a look at the odds and predictions of how this division will breakdown during the 2019-20 NFL season.

For the NFL newbies, what exactly is the AFC North?

If you’re just learning about the NFL, here’s a quick primer on how the league divides its teams based on the regions where each resides in order to build a fair schedule.

The National Football League (NFL) formed in 1920 and faced competition from many other leagues until 1966, when the NFL finally merged with the fourth American Football League (AFL) and held the very first Super Bowl at the end of that season.

Starting in 2002, after adding some expansion teams over the years, the NFL now has thirty-two teams that are split into two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC).

Each of those two conferences is then split up into four regions – North, South, East and West – with four teams in each, and in this article, we will be focusing on the AFC North, which got its official start in 1970 as the AFC Central and then was eventually renamed to the AFC North in 2002.

The teams of the AFC North are:

  1. Baltimore Ravens, who play at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland
  2. Cincinnati Bengals, who play at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio
  3. Cleveland Browns, who play at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers, who play at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Which team has the most Divisional titles?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won the most divisional titles (23):

  • AFC Central titles – 15
  • AFC North titles – 8

The Cincinnati Bengals are next with 9:

  • AFC Central titles – 5
  • AFC North titles – 4

The Cleveland Browns have a total of 6:

  • AFC Central titles – 6
  • AFC North titles – 0

The Baltimore Ravens are last with 5:

  • AFC Central titles – 0
  • AFC North titles – 5

Which AFC North team has the most Lombardi Trophies?

That honor also goes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won eight AFC championships, which they have turned into six Super Bowl wins: IX in 1974, X in 1975, XIII in 1978, XIV in 1979, XL in 2005 and XLIII in 2008.

Next in line are the Baltimore Ravens, who have won two AFC championships, which they have turned into two Super Bowl wins, XXXV in 2000 and XLVII in 2012.

Next are the Cincinnati Bengals, who have won two conference championships which they have turned into zero Super Bowl wins.

Finally come the Cleveland Browns, who have never won an AFC championship or been to a Super Bowl, but they have won four old school NFL Championships (pre-Super Bowl) and four AAFC Championships (pre-NFL Championships).

How many Super Bowl rings has the AFC North won?

The AFC North has appeared in 12 Super Bowls and won eight of those among its four teams.

The NFL division with the most Lombardi trophies is the NFC East, with a combined thirteen Super Bowl Championships.

The NFL divisions with the least amount of Super Bowl rings are the NFC and AFC South, with two Super Bowl rings apiece.

How did the AFC North do in 2018?

 Baltimore Ravens 10  6  0
 Pittsburgh Steelers  9  6  1
 Cleveland Browns  7  8  1
 Cincinnati Bengals  6 10  0

The Ravens ended up being the only AFC North team to play in the 2018 postseason after the Browns lost to them in Week 17, 24-26, giving Baltimore a one-win edge in the standings.

Had the Browns defeated the Ravens in that game, the Steelers would have been the AFC North Champs by virtue of their tie, and Pittsburgh would have gone on to play as the fourth seed in one of the Wild Card matchups.

As it stood, the Ravens did not fare well in the 2018-19 playoffs, losing their Wild Card game to the Los Angeles Chargers by a score of 17-23.

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What are the odds and predictions of the AFC North in 2019?

Of the four AFC North franchises, the Cleveland Browns (shockingly) have the best odds of winning the next Super Bowl (+1400), with only five other NFL teams having better odds and just two of those are AFC teams – Patriots +700 and Chiefs +800.

The odds of winning the Super Bowl for the Steelers (+2000), Ravens (+2500) and the Bengals (+12500) are considerably less than they are for the Browns, which is the first time in a long time (if ever) that that has happened.

The Browns have the third best odds to win the AFC Conference (+700) behind the Patriots (+315) and the Chiefs (+360) again, with the Steelers (+1000), Ravens (+1400) and Bengals (+6600) looking like total long shots in comparison, a rare AFC North sight, indeed.

Here’s how the AFC North is expected to rank during the 2019-20 season, including the odds of who will end up winning the division:

4) Cincinnati Bengals

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The 2019 Bengals will now be coached by Zac Taylor, the first new head coach the team has had in over a decade and a half, along with new offensive and defensive coordinators, Brian Callahan and Lou Anarumo, respectively, so chances are this will be a painful rebuilding season in Cincinnati.

The good news is that the torn ligaments in franchise quarterback Andy Dalton’s thumb have healed, the surgically repaired ligaments in All Pro wide receiver A.J. Green’s big toe are close to being 100 percent and promising running back Joe Mixon’s knee looks to be healthy again after requiring orthotropic surgery last season.

In 2018, the Bengals were 4-1 to start the season and then injuries got the best of them, finishing on a 2-9 run that gave hope to nobody and lost coach Marvin Lewis his job, so the key for this franchise in 2019 is to stay healthy and continue growing under their new leadership.

3) Baltimore Ravens

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The 2019 Baltimore Ravens are going all in on their second year quarterback Lamar Jackson, trading away franchise quarterback (and Super Bowl MVP) Joe Flacco and his cannon arm and putting all of their hopes on Jackson’s speedy legs, mostly because his inconsistent throwing arm is the biggest question mark on him right now.

Some experts suspect that even with speedy first round selection Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown running deep routes to pull coverage, Jackson may not have the arm to get the ball to him, so the entire passing offense may depend on Jackon’s ability to run the ball, which in the NFL is not a good formula for keeping your quarterback healthy (see backup quarterback RG3).

Head coach John Harbaugh and new general manager Eric DeCosta also spent the offseason trying to fill the giant holes in the defense left by the departing free agents (safety Eric Weddle and linebackers C.J. Mosely, Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs), and they hope safety Earl Thomas and linebackers Ejuan Price and Matthew Thomas can start to plug those gaps.

To go from being the divisional champs last season to having odds makers predict a third place finish this year says a lot about this morphing Ravens franchise, but if they can protect Jackson and he turns out to be the real deal, they could realistically make a repeat run at the division title.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers

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Despite losing two of their best players in wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers are still predicted to do well this season, and that is mainly because still under center is 2x Super Bowl Champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the thirty-seven year older who last season threw for over 5,000 yards for the first time in his fifteen-year NFL career.

And Big Ben is not alone out there by any stretch, with young third-year running back phenom James Conner in the backfield and speedy wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster running deep routes, the Steelers’ fourth ranked offense is now locked and loaded and (hopefully) mostly drama-free.

The big offseason change in Pittsburgh came when linebacker Devin Bush was drafted in the first round (10th pick overall), giving the Steelers the defensive quarterback they’ve been lacking ever since Ryan Shazier suffered his devastating back injury in 2017.

Pittsburgh looks plenty tough, except now the normally struggling Cleveland Browns have become not only a factor, but the main threat to the Steelers’ typical domination of the AFC North.

1) Cleveland Browns

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Nobody saw this coming, but under third-year general manager John Dorsey, the 2019 Cleveland Browns have become the AFC North favorites for the first time in forever, and that’s due to Dorsey’s two incredibly effective drafts and two similarly successful free agency periods.

Now that the Browns finally have their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, who set the NFL record for total passing touchdowns by a rookie (27), they could focus their offseason on miraculously acquiring the deep threat veteran receiver they’d been lacking, Odell Beckham Jr., as well as signing running back Kareem Hunt, who is suspended for eight games but will have fresh legs for the second half of the season.

The defense was Cleveland’s weakest link last season, and Dorsey filled some holes by signing Pro Bowl defensive end Olivier Vernon and former defensive rookie of the year tackle Sheldon Richardson and by drafting cornerback Greedy Williams, who is already showing signs that he is capable of starting beside All-Rookie Denzel Ward.

New head coach Freddie Kitchens will have his hands full wrangling all the dynamic personalities on the Browns roster, but he’ll have the help of new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, both with plenty of NFL coaching experience.

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