AFC North betting preview: Baltimore is ready to take the throne
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens look to avenge a tough 2021-22 season where they missed the playoffs. Photo by Tony Ding/AP.

The AFC North has been one of the most competitive divisions in football in recent memory, with no team winning more than two consecutive titles since 1997.

The latest: The Baltimore Ravens are favoured to take home the division but will have to wrestle the crown from the Cincinnati Bengals, who will field an impressive team a year after a surprise run to the Super Bowl. The Browns will be without Deshaun Watson for the first 11 games while the Steelers adjust to life without Ben Roethlisberger.

Check out our AFC North betting preview.

AFC North betting preview

Baltimore Ravens

MarketOdds
To win Super Bowl+1,800
To win AFC Championship+900
To win AFC North+140
Win total (10.5) Over (+110) or Under (-134)
To reach playoffsYes (-177) or No (+137)

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Odds as of 3:15 p.m. on 08/19/2022.

Best team bet: Ravens to win 12-14 games (+240)

We're expecting a bounce-back season from the Ravens following a disappointing 8-9 campaign last year. Baltimore was ravaged by bad bouts of injury luck throughout the season and fell under .500 for the first time since 2015.

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Odds to win the AFC North
Avery Perri

In conjunction with untimely physical setbacks, John Harbaugh’s squad lost five of its last six contests by a combined eight points. Two of those defeats came on failed last-second two-point conversions.

We believe last year was an anomaly for the Ravens and expect them to not only win the North but also contend for the top spot in the AFC. That should place them right around the 12-14 win total, where they finished in 2019.

Best player bet: Rashod Bateman over 850.5 yards (+100)

We're high on a Bateman breakout season in Baltimore. Marquise Brown and his 23% target share have left town, leaving a vacuum in the receiving position that Bateman is perfectly equipped to fill.

The Minnesota product is coming off a rookie season where he amassed 515 yards in 12 games. This total might not be impressive at a first glance but given the circumstances, it's more than a respectable number.

Bateman missed the first five games to a groin strain and played his last four without Jackson under centre.

That gave Bateman just eight games with the former MVP. He racked up six-plus targets in six of those games. Expect Bateman to emerge as one of Jackson's primary receiving targets alongside Mark Andrews.

O/U win total analysis: This line of 10.5 seems too low, especially considering that the juice is skewed toward the under (-134). This suggests there's not a ton of confidence Baltimore can re-establish itself as one of the AFC's elites.

We beg to differ.

They have a former MVP at quarterback, a stable of strong running backs and a ferocious defence — not to mention one of the best head coaches in the league to tie it all together.

Five of the last seven AFC North champions have won 11 or more games and we think Baltimore is going to run away with this division.

Pick: Over 10.5 wins (+110)

Cincinnati Bengals

MarketOdds
To win Super Bowl+2,000
To win AFC Championship+1,100
To win AFC North+170
Win total (9.5) Over (-134) or Under (+110)
To reach playoffsYes (-150) or No (+113)

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Odds as of 3:15 p.m. on 08/19/2022.

Best team bet: Bengals to reach playoffs (-150)

With the expanded playoffs entering their third season, we're bullish on Cincinnati being one of the teams on the docket for Super Wild Card weekend.

Joe Burrow and Co. advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1988 last season, finally giving Cincinnati residents something to cheer about outside of Skyline Chili. We think they'll make it back to the playoffs this season but aren't as confident in them going deep.

A wild-card berth seems like the logical landing spot. Three of the four No. 7 seeds have won nine or fewer games under this format, which is more than doable for a highly skilled Bengals squad.

Best player bet: Trey Hendrickson over 11.5 sacks (-114)

Hendrickson was one of Cincinnati's most important additions last offseason.

He picked up 14 sacks in his first season wearing a Bengals uniform and was the anchor on a surprisingly good defence. The year prior to that, he netted 13.5 sacks with the Saints.

Hendrickson is right in his prime and should be able to easily pass this number as long as he stays healthy, which has never been much of an issue.

Playing opposite Sam Hubbard also doesn't hurt as the former Ohio State Buckeye had 7.5 sacks of his own last year. Having Hubbard helped reduce opposition double teams on Hendrickson and opened up more space.

O/U win total analysis: It feels like the books really dialled in on this line. Cincinnati is a good team coming off a great season, which will have many people leaning toward the over.

After all, they went to the Super Bowl last year. Well, people forget they only won 10 regular-season games, which would've just barely cleared this line.

They do have Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, though, a top-three quarterback-receiver combo in the NFL. They play in Cleveland when Watson is out but will have to run the gauntlet down the closing stretch.

Their final six weeks look like this:

  • vs. Chiefs
  • vs. Browns
  • @ Buccaneers
  • @ Patriots
  • vs. Bills
  • vs. Ravens

If we had to choose, we'd take the over, but a 9-8 season could definitely be in the cards.

Pick: Over 9.5 wins (-135)

AFC North betting preview: Cleveland Browns

MarketOdds
To win Super Bowl+4,000
To win AFC Championship+2,000
To win AFC North+450
Win total (8.5) Over (+123) or Under (-150)
To reach playoffsYes (+163) or No (-200)

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Odds as of 3:15 p.m. on 08/19/2022.

Best team bet: First loss of the year against Pittsburgh Steelers (+500)

This is an oddly specific bet and we like its chances of cashing.

Cleveland may be without Watson for the first 11 games but they start off the season in Carolina against the Panthers before hosting the New York Jets.

Those teams had a combined 9-25 record last year and we don't think they'll be much better this season. A Baker Mayfield revenge game will be interesting but Cleveland's defence has practiced against him for years, leaving us confident the Browns will secure a W.

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NFC West betting preview
Nick Ashbourne

The Jets are an unknown commodity, with a talented roster that is largely unproven. Cleveland has a solid chance of winning that game at home against an inexperienced Zach Wilson (if he's ready following knee surgery).

Assuming the Browns get through those two games unscathed, they'll host the Steelers in Week 3.

We're projecting Pittsburgh to be a solid team that will fight in every game, especially versus divisional rivals. This will likely be a modest spread, giving what's essentially a +500 moneyline solid hedging opportunity.

Mike Tomlin-led teams have gone 9-5-1 when playing the Browns in Cleveland and 24-6-1 overall.

Best player bet: Myles Garrett over 13 sacks (-114)

Myles Garrett is the best player on this team, plain and simple.

He smashed this number last year, netting 16 sacks in 17 games and came close the season prior, with 12 in his 14 starts.

He would've passed this mark in 2019, too, if it were not for suspension. Garrett began his year with 10 sacks in as many games but decided to use his helmet as a weapon and was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, missing the remaining six contests.

If he stays healthy — and doesn't get suspended — we think he'll blow by this line.

O/U win total analysis: While we project the Browns to start off 2-0, we don't think the good times will last.

They have an incredibly tough schedule following the first four weeks.

  • vs. Chargers (Week 5)
  • vs. Patriots (Week 6)
  • @ Ravens (Week 7)
  • vs. Bengals (Week 8)
  • Week 9 bye
  • @ Dolphins (Week 10)
  • @ Bills (Week 11)
  • vs. Buccaneers (Week 12)

Winning any of those games will be tough. And after a Week 13 breather against the Houston Texans, the Browns then get the Bengals and Ravens again in back-to-back weeks.

When Watson returns, there's no telling how he'll perform. He's not allowed to practice with the team until October 10 and will have to adjust to full-speed NFL games after nearly two years off.

Cleveland also suffered two massive injuries on the offensive line. Nick Harris and Dawson Deaton, the first and second-string centers, both suffered season-ending knee injuries.

There are too many unknowns with this team and it's likely they'll finish under .500.

Pick: Under 8.5 wins (-150)

Pittsburgh Steelers

MarketOdds
To win Super Bowl+8,000
To win AFC Championship+4,000
To win AFC North+800
Win total (7.5) Over (-110) or Under (-110)
To reach playoffsYes (+305) or No (-400)

(Click link to add to betslip)

Odds as of 3:15 p.m. on 08/19/2022.

Best team bet: Over 7.5 wins (-110)

This line reflects the idea that Pittsburgh will face a large setback in the wake of Roethlisberger's retirement.

The Steelers haven't won fewer than eight games since 2003 and even surpassed this total with the likes of Duck Hodges, Mason Rudolph and the far less effective, post-UCL surgery Big Ben under centre.

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NFC South betting preview
Avery Perri

The defence led the NFL in sacks in each of the past two seasons and has received some key additions such as Myles Jack and Larry Ogunjobi to stop the run, which was a weak spot at points last year.

Matt Canada should be able to re-work offence around more RPO and play-action looks rather than strictly sticking to shotgun as they've been forced to do the last couple of years.

Best player bet: Najee Harris over 1100.5 rushing yards (-125)

With some uncertainty at the quarterback position, this seems like a safe play.

Harris has been a beast in every stage of his career. He galloped for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior for the Crimson Tide and carried that momentum into his rookie year for the Steelers, where he immediately assumed an enormous workload.

His 302 rushing attempts were second among all NFL backs and his 1,200 rushing yards were good for fourth. Harris' 3.9 yards per attempt wasn't elite, but he made the most of what was a poor offensive line.

Harris broke the second-most tackles (30) en route to picking up the third-most first downs (61).

The Alabama alumnus was Tomlin's go-to option when they needed yards and that's unlikely to change this season. Under what should be an improved offensive line, we like Harris to have another stellar season for the Black and Gold.

O/U win total analysis: Maybe we're being a bit premature on this front but Pittsburgh's quarterback situation isn't bad.

Mitchell Trubisky has had a positive training camp and Kenny Pickett showed out in his preseason debut. Roethlisberger was one of the most inefficient quarterbacks in the league last year so we think either player would be an upgrade under centre.

They have the reigning defensive player of the year in T.J. Watt playing alongside two other All-Pros in Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Heyward.

As Tomlin says "the standard is the standard."

Pick: Over 7.5 wins (-110)

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