2014 Odds to Win AFC North with Picks and NFL Predictions
by Dave Schwab - 6/25/2014
BetOnline has recently updated its futures board for the betting odds to win each of the NFL's eight division titles that will be up for grabs in the 2014 regular season. This time around I will be previewing and making predictions for one of the tightest races on the board, the AFC North.
Cincinnati Bengals Odds to Win the AFC North +200
Cincinnati ascended to the top of the AFC North in 2013 with an overall record of 11-5 after both Baltimore and Pittsburgh took a significant step backwards. It was the Bengals second division title in five years, and they have now made three straight trips to the playoffs. Despite all of this recent success there are serious rumblings that this could be a make-or-break season for fourth-year quarterback Andy Dalton.
The Bengals offense finished in the Top 10 of the NFL in both passing yards and scoring, but the team's failure in the postseason is what most experts have focused on. Cincinnati is still the most complete team in this division right now with a defense that was ranked third in the league in yards allowed and fifth in points allowed.
Baltimore Ravens Odds to Win the AFC North +225
The Ravens followed up their stunning run to a Super Bowl title in 2012 with a somewhat predictable 8-8 record last season after losing a number of key components of that championship team. This was just the second time in the last eight seasons they failed to make the playoffs. Heading into this season, Baltimore also has a quarterback that could be under the gun with another slow start.
After signing a big-money contract following the 2012 season, Joe Flacco appeared to rest on his laurels last season as the offense fell to 29th in the league in total yards and 25th in scoring. Despite numerous personnel losses on defense, this unit still ranked 12th in both yards and points allowed in 2013. The addition of linebacker CJ Mosley in the first round of the draft and nose tackle Timmy Jernigan in the second should add some solid depth on this side of the ball.
Pittsburgh Steelers Odds to Win the AFC North +250
The one outstanding character trait under head coach Mike Tomlin has been Pittsburgh's ability to bounce back from a bad season. That will be put to the test in 2014 after his team posted back-to-back 8-8 records in the past two seasons. It missed the playoffs in 2013 for just the third time in his seven seasons at the helm.
The Steelers' projected win total on BetOnline's futures board is set at 8.5, with the moneyline favoring the "over" at -140. Cincinnati's is set at nine and the Ravens are also listed at 8.5, so the stage is set for a return to the top of the division after a three-year hiatus. The weight to get there will once again be on the shoulders of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but he should have some additional help with the addition of running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey through free agency.
Cleveland Browns Odds to Win the AFC North +550
Cleveland enters the 2014 season in the all-too-familiar position of being picked to finish last in the division. It is hard to blame the oddsmakers considering that the Browns have claimed this position more times than not with just one winning season since 2003. They finished 4-12 last year and they have not won more than five games since 2007.
The hype that came with selecting Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall pick in this year's draft might put some additional fans in the seats at FirstEnergy Stadium this year, but it remains to be seen if this bold move will do anything to improve an offense that was ranked 27th in the league in scoring. The Browns selected cornerback Justin Gilbert with the eighth overall pick in the first round to go along with free agent safety Donte Whitner to add depth to a secondary that was already ranked eighth against the pass. The projected win total for Cleveland is set at 6.5 games, with the moneyline favoring the over at -160.
AFC North Picks and Predictions
This remains one of the hardest divisions to predict considering Cincinnati's edge in talent going up against a couple of veteran coaches in Baltimore and Pittsburgh that know how to quickly turn things around. I do think the Browns can stick their nose in the mix as well this season, but they are still a few years away from seriously competing with the other three teams. Look for the Bengals to lose a few more games in 2014 as it is extremely hard to keep going 8-0 at home, while the Steelers add two more wins to recapture the AFC North crown at 10-6.
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Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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