2020 AFC North Preview – Prediction and Best Bet

August 12, 2020

Thanks for stopping back for our the third division in our eight part series, by division, to get you primed for the NFL season. We will provide some insight on each team in the division, what to expect in 2020 and ultimately the pick to win each division and whether or not that team is worth a wager. 

Previous Division Reviews

Working our way from the west coast to the east coast, the next division up in our series of previews is the AFC North. This could be one of the most competitive and most fun divisions in the league, as three teams have a legitimate shot at taking the crown. One of which is an anti-value while the other two are values.

The current odds for the AFC North are as follows:

🏈Baltimore Ravens         -225🏈
🏈Pittsburgh Steelers      +350🏈
🏈Cleveland Browns        +500🏈
🏈Cincinnati Bengals        +2500🏈

Baltimore Ravens -250

The Ravens were -200 in our first betting preview of the season, and have now climbed to -250. While I do believe they should be a small favorite to take the divisional crown, laying -250 is egregiously too high and they are not remotely in play for a bet. The offense Gregg Roman created for and around Lamar Jackson to set him and the team up to succeed will remain in place, and the offense as a whole will remain menacing. The rest of the league does now have the blueprint of what they’re trying to do and should have a better level of understanding of how to slow the Ravens, but don’t count on that weekly. I think there will be games where a focused defensive coordinator can drum up a scheme that will seem to inexplicably frustrate and stop the Ravens, but most games should see a very similar result to 2019. Mark Andrews remains in place as the team’s top pass catcher and could ascend to top tight end in the NFL status this season, while any step forward in wide receiving production would be a boon for the team. The running game will always be formidable and that pairs well with a very good defense, front to back, that was top four in both points and yards allowed in 2019.

Again, the Ravens should be favored to win the division, but the line is far too wide for a wager.

Pittsburgh Steelers +350

The Steelers at +350 are truly a value price, and if it weren’t for the next team to touch on, they would be an easy play to target. Memories are apparently short when it comes to the Steelers as 2019 was a lost year with sub replacement level quarterback play. After Ben Roethlisberger went down, the season was essentially over for them, but he is back this year and it will mean everything for the offense. He will have a healthy Juju Smith-Schuester as a probable top weapon, but there is another pass catcher to make note of. Diontae Johnson was incredible as a rookie, and he was wildly impressive with some of the worst quarterbacking we will see. It would not be at all shocking to see the 1-2 punch of Johnson and Juju resemble that of the one Juju and Antonio Brown formed in 2018. Also added to the fold was Eric Ebron at tight end, which will be an upgrade from what we’ve seen the past couple seasons. The Steelers defense was something of a dominant one and will be again, but the results were mixed in 2019 due to the unevenness of the offense.

As I said, +350 is a very fine price, it’s just difficult to take that price over that of the…

Cleveland Browns +500

Betting Play: Take the Browns at +500

The Browns were an extremely hyped team entering last season, and essentially disappointed at every turn. The incompetent head coaching of Freddie Kitchens is predominantly to blame for this, and rest assured, you’ll never see him as an NFL head coach ever again. Enter Kevin Stefanski, a sound offensive coordinator and one that can steady the ship and further the development of franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has oodles and oodles of weaponry to choose from, and we should see one of the more efficient passing games in the league. He will have his first season with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr, still present is Jarvis Landry and the Browns splashed in free agency, paying up to bring in tight end Austin Hooper to pair with David Njoku at the position. The offense will be balanced and the Browns have the best tandem of running backs in the league in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The offensive line was a massive problem in 2019 and the Browns spent their first round pick on Jedrick Wills, the future left tackle and paid up to bring in Jack Conklin at right tackle, who will be an instantly steadying presence. Expect a massive improvement from this offense in 2020, and the team will go as far as the defense will take them. The defense was middle of the pack in 2019 but has more talent than the results suggest. The new coaching staff can only bring improvement on this side of the ball.

The +500 figure is just a little bit more attractive than that of the Steelers at +350 and is the best bet in the division.

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Cincinnati Bengals +2500

Betting Play: Take the Browns at +500

The line here says it all. The Bengals will remain the worst team in the division, and 2020 will be a building year for the future. While the Bengal front office is generally an inept one, they had a sound offseason and pointed the arrow upwards for the future. They locked up franchise quarterback Joe Burrow with the first pick in the draft and cleverly addressed other needs on the roster. They are simply not a threat in 2020, but they could become competitive in this division as early as 2021.

It is something of a gut wrenching thing to choose the best value between the Browns and Steelers. I essentially consider them equally likely to win the division and the unit and a half difference between the lines is the determining factor.

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