With the news Monday that Deshaun Watson will be forced to sit out six games, which is well below estimates of many analysts and well, well below what NFL higher-ups were seeking, Browns futures prices – including their AFC North odds – tightened across the sports betting marketplace. They are still the third favorite to win the division, behind the favored Ravens and second-choice Bengals.
So, what appeared to be a two-team race for AFC North honors between defending champion Cincinnati and Baltimore is now a three-squad scramble with Cleveland.
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AFC North Division Championship Odds
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If you’re interested in taking a stab at which team will win the AFC North this season (and maybe even Super Bowl 57), take note that last year’s division race was one of the most topsy-turvy in league history.
Will there be such an occurrence again in a division that hasn’t seen the favorite come out on top since 2017 and only four times the past 15 years?
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AFC North Divisional Madness
The AFC North was the only one of the eight divisions in the 2021 NFL season in which the favorite or co-favorite didn’t finish first. In fact, Baltimore (+120) ended up last.
And, the team that figured to bring up the rear for a fourth straight season, Cincinnati, not only won the division at +2500 but advanced to the Super Bowl before falling to the LA Rams. No team in any of the divisions — even Detroit — had odds longer than that.
Such a reversal (favorite being last, biggest underdog finishing first) has happened only two other times in the NFL in the current division alignment that took shape in 2002.
Speaking of division longshots, according to SportsOddsHistory.com the only heavier division underdog to triumph in this 20-year span was Washington in the NFC East at +3500 in 2015.
Anyway, here’s how the division figures to play out (last season’s regular-season records in parentheses):
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1. Baltimore Ravens (8-9)
The Ravens are surprisingly not getting much respect, having a win total of 9.5 (DraftKings) yet being listed as the early-line favorite in 13 of their 17 games this season. What’s with that?
It helps that they have a last-place schedule and are the AFC North team that gets to play the NY Giants and Jacksonville. By contrast, Cincinnati gets to face fellow division winners Dallas and Tennessee.
But before the confetti falls, Baltimore has a whole lot of healing to do.
No team had more key injuries last season than Baltimore, with top RBs J.K. Dobbins (knee) and Gus Edwards (knee) out before the season started and with QB Lamar Jackson injuring an ankle in Week 13 and sitting out the rest of the season.
Jackson is back, but Dobbins is on the PUP list and Edwards might not be ready for Week 1. And then there’s All-Pro OLT Ronnie Stanley, who was lost in Week 1 with an ankle injury. He’ s also on the PUP list.
As is Pro Bowl CB Marcus Peters (knee), who missed all of last season. Fellow All-Pro Marlon Humphrey (torn pec) missed five games but is ready to go.
With those two star DBs missing so much time, Baltimore gave up a league-high16 pass plays of 40-plus yards last year. That’s 16 more than Atlanta yielded.
The gamble inside the gamble is most of those guys will be ready to play by Week 4 when the Ravens host Buffalo followed by Cincinnati. Another gamble is that Jackson learns how to handle the increasing number of blitzes he’ll been facing and also find a new favorite receiver now that Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is gone (Arizona).
Fun Stat: A league-high three times the Ravens allowed opposing passers to average 10-plus yards a throw last year. Baltimore went 2-1 in those games. All other league teams went a combined 2-12.
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2. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
(+2500 to win Super Bowl at DraftKings)
The Bengals, meanwhile, are early-line betting favorites only eight times, with one pick ’em, yet have a win total of 10 at DraftKings. Hmm.
Anyway, assuming star QB Joe Burrow has no issues recovering from having his appendix being removed this week, WR Ja’Marr Chase continues to dazzle and RB Joe Mixon can have another Pro Bowl season. Cincinnati should be able to be a force in the AFC again.
Somehow, Burrow guided the Bengals to the Super Bowl despite being sacked a league-high 70 times, including the playoffs. Nine times he went down in a divisional-round win at top-seeded Tennessee. But the offensive line has since been refurbished with the addition of three veteran newcomers, including ex-Cowboys star tackle La’el Collins.
The defense should hold its own as long as Trey Hendrickson (14 sacks) can keep enemy passers ill at ease.
Fun Stat: Entering last season, the Bengals were listed as underdogs in 15 out of 17 games on the early lines. They wound up being the favorite eight times.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)
(+9000 to win Super Bowl at DraftKings)
There’s been a lot of buzz about who could possibly fill the shoes of longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who guided the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles early on.
But as his career dragged on past his skill-set expiration date, opposing DBs had to be chuckling when Steelers receivers ran go patterns. So it appears that newly acquired Mitch Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, or rookie Kenny Pickett out of Pitt, the 20th overall selection this spring, should be at least a small upgrade at the position.
Regardless, the key is keeping workhorse second-year RB Najee Harris on his feet. Even behind an offensive line that saw the departure last season of three players who combined for 17 Pro Bowl seasons, Harris was the fourth-leading rusher with 1,200 yards. His 381 touches led the league.
But what about that defense? Sure, Pittsburgh led the league in sacks yet again, but the unit also gave up a franchise-worst 5.0 yards a rush.
Fun Stat: Harris wasn’t just a rusher. In one game against Cincinnati, he had a league season-high 14 receptions. They came on 19 targets, tied for the most in 2021.
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4. Cleveland Browns (8-9)
(+2500 to win Super Bowl at PointsBet)
As of last Friday, Cleveland was listed as high as +3300 to win the Super Bowl at PointsBet while awaiting independent hearing officer Sue L. Robinson’s ruling on a length of suspension for quarterback Watson.
With Watson serving only six games, the Browns now are listed as short as +2000 at PointsBet and BetMGM to win the NFL championship, with DraftKings offering the best value for bettors at +2500.
With regard to the schedule, Cleveland couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. Their first six games are against five teams that aren’t expected to have a winning season, based on win totals. And Watson’s first two games back will be against Baltimore and Cincinnati.
Before sitting out last season, Watson was the second-leading passer in the league in 2020 despite playing for a Houston team that finished 4-12 and was next to last in average yards rushing.
The Browns are threats to rebound in the post-Baker Mayfield era and make a run with the Bengals and Ravens for the division title.
Fun Stat: In a Week 3 victory over Chicago, the Browns held the Bears to 47 yards of total offense, the lowest for team in a game last season.
Past AFC North Champions & Preseason Odds
2021: Cincinnati +2500
2020: Pittsburgh +300
2019: Baltimore +400
2018: Baltimore +300
2017: Pittsburgh +250
2016: Pittsburgh +110
2015: Cincinnati +225
2014: Pittsburgh +180
2013: Cincinnati +200
2012: Baltimore +140
2011: Baltimore +120
2010: Pittsburgh +275
2009: Cincinnati +800
2008: Pittsburgh -125
2007: Pittsburgh +250
Additional NFL Futures Betting Markets
Check out live Super Bowl odds for all 32 NFL teams on our Super Bowl 57 odds page. Here are some more futures markets you might be interested in:
- You can also bet season win totals at DraftKings. What teams will surpass their NFL season win total during the 2022-23 NFL season?
- What are your favorite team’s chances of making the NFL Playoffs? Here are odds to make the postseason for all 32 teams.
- The Bills are favored to win the AFC, but consider sprinkling some money on the Chiefs and Raiders at longer odds.
- In NFC odds, the Rams are a solid bet to repeat, and the Eagles are a nice sleeper pick.
AFC North Odds — Frequently Asked Questions
The Ravens are the betting favorite to win the AFC North.
The Cincinnati Bengals won the division last year en route to the Super Bowl.
Wait and see what happens as far as a suspension for Cleveland QB Deshaun Watson, but stay away from the Browns if he’s out for a significant period of time this season.
Always compare the odds being offered at different sportsbooks. No single book will have the best odds on all of your bets.
The Baltimore Ravens were the last team from the division to win a Super Bowl in 2013.
It will either be Mitch Trubisky or rookie QB Kenny Pickett from Pitt.