Let’s take a look at what is happening right now around the AFC North with just a few weeks until the start of the regular season and with each team’s NFL odds to win the division.
NFL | Division AFC North 2021
Baltimore Ravens (+115)
The Ravens selected University of Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman with their first-round pick in this year’s draft, but he went down fairly early in camp with a groin injury that required surgery and it’s now looking like Bateman may open the season on injured reserve. Core muscle surgery generally takes 6-8 weeks to recover from. Any player who opens the year on injured reserve only has to miss three games nowadays. This is a bout of déjà vu for the Ravens. Six years ago, another Baltimore rookie receiver drafted in the first round suffered an injury in training camp. Initially, it was hoped Breshad Perriman would quickly return to the important role projected for him. But his knee injury lingered so long that Perriman never played as a rookie. He ended up being a bust. The Ravens play at the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. Baltimore then hosts the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 (Sept. 19) before traveling to face the Detroit Lions in Week 3 (Sept. 26).
Cleveland Browns (+160)
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said that tight end Austin Hooper will have a larger role in the pass game this season. “We’re going to grow his role. He really understands now in Year 2 how we plan to use him,” said Stefanski, who expects Hooper to block less this year. Hooper ran routes with Baker Mayfield this offseason to “try to develop the chemistry that was lacking at times.” Hooper finished second on the Browns with a 46/435/4 line on 70 targets last season. That was a fairly disappointing season considering Hooper joined the Browns in free agency before last season on a four-year, $42 million contract, with $23 million guaranteed, that for a brief period made him the league’s highest-paid tight ends. The veteran was coming off a four-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons that saw him average 73 receptions for 723 yards and five touchdowns over his final two seasons.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+320)
The Steelers avoided disaster this week when top wideout Chase Claypool went down hard in practice, but he has avoided major injury. It’s being called a minor ankle sprain. It wasn’t the first time Claypool, a 2020 second-round draft pick, avoided a significant injury this preseason. He also had a hard landing after making a spectacular 45-yard catch in the Hall of Fame Game, but he didn’t miss any practice time. Claypool is coming off a breakout rookie campaign in which he recorded nine touchdowns and 873 yards on 62 receptions. The second-year wideout has taken all first-team reps during training camp. He’s also been one of four receivers who work primarily with Roethlisberger during individual drills.
Cincinnati Bengals (+2500)
The best defensive player of late in camp for Cincinnati has been Larry Ogunjobi, who wasn’t healthy for the start of training camp. The man tabbed with replacing defensive tackle Geno Atkins after signing as a free agent has been dominant in the trenches, consistently applying pressure and disrupting the offense. “He’s been hell on us,” tight end EJ Uzomah said. “I don’t know if it’s fresh legs or not. But he’s a beast, I know that.” Ogunjobi, a fifth-year player out of Charlotte, signed a one-year deal with the Bengals back in March. Ogunjobi had 46 tackles and two sacks last year through 15 starts with the Browns. With D.J. Reader and prized offseason addition Trey Hendrickson also on the defensive line, it should be much improved.
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