2021 AFC North Predictions with Odds and Expert Betting Picks
The AFC North produced the most playoff teams of any division in the NFL last year. This year you can expect the very same high caliber of play. Pittsburgh has been the team to beat in the division over the past 20 years, winning it 10 times and in three of the last five seasons. The Cincinnati Bengals could be the biggest wild card coming into the season. They have had a lot of high draft picks, and it will only be a matter of time before they are competing for first in the division every year. The Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns look both fundamentally solid heading into 2021. The Browns had their coming out party last year. Coach Kevin Stefanski was finally able to get Baker Mayfield going, and expect another step forward for the franchise this season. The Ravens will be another powerhouse in the AFC; the only concern for them is If they can utilize the passing game.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers may be the best value bet to win the AFC North in 2021. Coming in at +550, little respect has been shown to the aging Ben Roethlisberger. With a defensive core consisting of defensive player of the year front runner T.J Watt, perennial Pro Bowler Melvin Ingram, and college Phenom Devin Bush Jr., I don’t believe you can rule out the Steelers that easily. The Steelers also took the No. 1 running back in the draft, Najee Harris, which could be a key piece to the puzzle in Steeler Land. Having experience being at the top of the AFC every year, the Steelers are not getting the credit they deserve. I like them to get over 8.5 wins, and I also like +550 as my value pick.
Key Additions/ Re-Signings: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, OT Joe Haeg, C B.J. Finney, DL Tyson Alualu, CB Cameron Sutton, LB Vince Williams, DE Melvin Ingram, RB Najee Harris (Via Draft)
Key Departures: Edge Bud Dupree, CB Mike Hilton, OT Matt Feiler, CB Steven Nelson, OT Alejandro Villanueva, C Maurkice Pouncey
Super Bowl +5000
AFC North +550
To Make Playoffs +160
Not Make Playoffs -200
Win Total O/U 8.5 +120
Strength of schedule 2020 opponent win percentage: 1st .574 (155-115-2)
In order to take the next step forward as a franchise, the Baltimore Ravens will need an improved passing game from Lamar Jackson. The Ravens became very one dimensional as an offense last year, which led them to a second-round playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens have addressed concerns to their receiving corps by drafting first round pick Rashad Bateman and signing veteran Sammy Watkins. Heading into 2021, the Ravens have lost two key pieces of their top rushing offense in the NFL last season, with J.K Dobbins out for the year due to injury and Mark Ingram to free agency. It will be up to Gus Edwards to carry the load in the backfield this season, which may be a tall task to ask for. Coming in as the favorite to win the AFC North, I don’t think the Ravens will have what it takes coming down the stretch, as seven of the last eight games are against playoff teams from last year.
Key Additions/ Re-Signings: WR Sammy Watkins, G Kevin Zeitler, Edge Tyus Bowser, Edge Pernell McPhee, OT Alejandro Villanueva, WR Rashod Bateman (Via Draft), Edge Jayson Oweh (Via Draft)
Key Departures: Edge Matt Judon, Edge Yannick Ngakoue, RB Mark Ingram, C Matt Skura, WR Willie Snead IV, OT Orlando Brown Jr.
Super Bowl +1400
AFC North +120
To Make Playoffs -300
Not Make Playoffs +225
Win Total O/U 11 +100
Strength of schedule 2020 opponent win percentage: 2nd .563 (152-118-2)
The Cincinnati Bengals are often forgotten when it comes to conversation around the AFC North. No one expects the Bengals to be in the dog fight for first in the division. However, with an improved defense and offensive line, they will not be a team to be overlooked heading into 2021. The Bengals also will have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, with many experts making bold predictions that Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd could all have 1,000-yard seasons. If Joe Burrow can come back from his ACL tear in the form he left Week 11, the Bengals could be a real dark horse in the AFC North. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Burrow and the Bengals double their win total from last season. Take them to win over 6.5 games.
Key Additions/ Re-Signings: Edge Trey Hendrickson, CB Mike Hilton, CB Chidobe Awuzie, OT Riley Reiff, DT Larry Ogunjobi, S Ricardo Allen. WR Ja’Marr Chase (Via Draft), OL Jackson Carman (Via Draft)
Key Departures: WR A.J Green, DT Geno Atkins, Edge Carl Lawson, CB William Jackson III, WR John Ross, OT Bobby Hart, C B.J. Finney, CB Mackensie Alexander
Super Bowl +15000
AFC North +2500
To Make Playoffs +500
Not Make Playoffs -750
Win Total O/U 6.5 -110
Strength of schedule 2020 opponent win percentage: T6 .529 (144-128)
The Cleveland Browns left 2021 as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, and I would fully expect the momentum to continue into this season. Myles Garret and Jadeveon Clowney will be one of the most feared duos in the NFL, and if healthy the tandem will have game changing ability from the defensive side of the football. The Browns bolster one of the most well-balanced attacks in the NFL as well. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will look to lead the charge for the Browns offense again this season from the backfield. Also, if Odell Beckham Jr. can get anywhere close to his New York Giants form, they will not be a fun matchup for opposing defenses. The Browns have all the pieces in play to make a deep push into the playoffs. They are my safest pick to win the AFC North. At +150, it isn’t the most exciting pick you will make in 2021, but could put you to be in the green come season end.
Key Additions/ Re-Signings: CB Troy Hill, S John Johnson III, LB Anthony Walker Jr., WR Rashard Higgins, Edge Takkarist McKinley, DT Malik Jackson, LB Malcolm Smith, Edge Jadeveon Clowney, CB Greg Newsom II (Via Draft)
Key Departures: OT Kendall Lamm, CB Terrance Mitchell, DT Larry Ogunjobi, CB Kevin Johnson, DT Sheldon Richardson
Super Bowl +1600
AFC North +150
To Make Playoffs -225
Not Make Playoffs +175
Win Total O/U 10.5 -110
Strength of schedule 2020 opponent win percentage: 9th .518 (140-130-2)
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