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Steelers Own Best Odds To Win AFC North, Yet Again

Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown is announced during the AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers

The AFC North has taken a dip the past few seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens fading back into mediocrity and the Cleveland Browns struggling to win a single game. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers have remained an AFC powerhouse and find themselves as -260 favorites to win the division for a third straight season in 2018.

Can The Steelers continue To Dominate The AFC North?

As long as the “Killer B’s” are together, the Steelers will be the front-runners in the AFC North. However, those days might be soon coming to an end. Le’Veon Bell is perpetually unhappy with his contract situation with the team – fair considering he is arguably the best running back in football – and Ben Roethlisberger is constantly alluding to his inevitable retirement. Which means that if the Steelers want to make another run at a Super Bowl, this may be their last chance.

Cruising through the AFC North seems very likely for the Steelers in 2018 considering they have gone 11-1 against AFC North opponents in the past two seasons. Those victories have not come easily – seven of them have been by less than a touchdown – but there is little reason to expect any noticeable regression.

The linebacker unit needed some bolstering in the offseason, something the Steelers did not do a great job at. They drafted a couple of tweener LB/S prospects in the draft but that is unlikely to make up for the Ryan Shazier-sized hole in the defense. The defense as a whole closed out last season looking rather pedestrian, which may also point to concerns about age on that side of the ball.

All things considered, the Steelers deserve to be the favorites. They have an elite offense and a defense that can be among the league’s top units when they are clicking. There are some holes but nothing compared to the rest of the AFC North.

Are The Ravens Better Off With Flacco Or Jackson?

The Ravens have been pretty pedestrian over the past few years and no player has exemplified that more than Joe Flacco. The Ravens’ longtime starting quarterback has an OK 82.1 passer rating over the past two seasons while throwing 38 touchdowns to 28 interceptions. Sure, Flacco has not had much to work with but it has become apparent that the 33-year-old peaked years ago.

Enter Lamar Jackson.

Jackson won the Heisman at Louisville two years ago thanks to his dynamic playmaking ability with both his arm and his legs. He would undoubtedly bring another dimension to the Ravens offense if he gets the starting nod at any point this season. However, that does not mean he should start on Day 1. Jackson is raw – like, super raw. His mechanics are bad, his accuracy is iffy at best and he can too often rely on his legs if his first passing option isn’t there.

I think you can buy low on the Ravens whenever they do decide that Jackson is ready to be the guy but I would not expect this team to suddenly become anything more than mediocre this season.

Could A Revamped Offensive Line Fix The Bengals?

The No. 1 reason the Bengals went 7-9 last season was their offensive line. Andy Dalton was sacked 2.5 times per game – 19th in the NFL – and the rushing game averaged a dreadful 3.6 yards per carry. The big men in the trenches were simply awful last season.

However, the Bengals traded for left tackle Cordy Glenn and drafted interior lineman Billy Price. Glenn is one of the more underrated LTs in the NFL, he just has a long history of injury issues. And Price would’ve been the second interior lineman taken in the draft had he not suffered a pectoral injury at the combine. If both Glenn and Price can stay healthy and play at 100 percent, then suddenly the Bengals offense is scary.

Dalton might not be the sexiest player but he consistently gets it done – in the regular season. A.J. Green is still an absolute stud of a receiver and Joe Mixon has all the tools to be a terrifying running back in the NFL. Then you add John Ross – the first-round pick from last draft who redshirted his entire rookie year due to injury – and Cincy’s offense could go from worst to first this season.

If any team in the AFC North is going to shock the Steelers and take the crown, it is the Bengals.

The Browns Won’t Be A Doormat Anymore

The Cleveland Browns have not had a winning season since 2007. Hell, they have only once won more than five games in the past 10 seasons. But there is reason for hope for the dismal Browns.

No, they’re not going to compete for the AFC North – you should get that idea out of your head right now.

Hue Jackson and company added talent all over the roster this offseason through both the draft and free agency. Tyrod Taylor might be the most competent quarterback the Browns have had since Derek Anderson, Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb form a potentially lethal running back tandem and the defense has been buffed up with the signings of E.J. Gaines and Mychal Kendricks.

The Browns are not going to reach .500 and they may not even get five wins but there is a realistic chance that they are not looked at as an automatic win for opponents in 2018. And that is a win for Cleveland. 

Odds to Win 2018 AFC North Division
TeamOdds
Pittsburgh Steelers-260
Baltimore Ravens+400
Cincinnati Bengals+1000
Cleveland Browns+1000

Odds as of June 6 at Bovada

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