AFC North

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have combined to win five straight AFC North titles. Will that run continue? The Ravens are favored on the NFL odds but there’s a major threat on the rise. Here’s a quick look at each team with their divisional odds.

NFL 2021 |AFC North Analysis and Odds

Baltimore Ravens (+135)

The Ravens’ two-year reign atop the AFC North ended last year when they finished 11-5 and tied for a second, a game behind Pittsburgh. Baltimore got hosed a couple of times schedule-wise due to COVID issues on other teams. Speaking of which, star QB Lamar Jackson is missing the start of training camp and practices because he has tested positive for the virus. It marked the second time that the former NFL MVP has tested positive for the coronavirus in the past eight months. Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley are taking majority of the snaps at quarterback with Jackson out. Needless to say, if the Ravens were to lose Jackson for any stretch in the regular season, they would be up the creek. The have been the NFL’s highest-scoring team in Jackson’s first two full seasons as a starting quarterback. Baltimore, which has averaged 31.2 points in the regular season with Jackson, has totaled just 32 points in Jackson’s three postseason losses.

Cleveland Browns (+140)

The Browns are one of four active franchises in the NFL to never reach a Super Bowl but are a chic pick to get there this season finally. Three-time Pro Bowl WR Odell Beckham Jr. is ready to go. The Browns were 5-2 prior to his season-ending ACL injury in 2020, but Beckham’s numbers (23 receptions on 43 targets for 319 yards and three touchdowns) were well below his usual standards. Still, he led Cleveland with a 22 percent target share over the season’s first seven games. Beckham was not placed on the PUP list to start training camp.  QB Baker Mayfield played so much better down the stretch after his so-so first two months under Kevin Stefanski. If Mayfield continues that level of play, look out. There are few teams with better overall talent.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+380)

It’s almost hard to believe that the Steelers started 11-0 last year as they finished 12-4, winning the division, but then were routed in the wild-card round at home by Cleveland. This is expected to be QB Ben Roethlisberger’s final season. Roethlisberger, who will be 40 in March, says coming back for another year is all about how he feels about the game and not about making a statement: “It’s not about proving anything.” Roethlisberger has familiarity in the form of receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington and tight end Eric Ebron. The Steelers’ offense finished last in the NFL in rushing in 2020. They also became far too predictable, which led to the team promoting Matt Canada to offensive coordinator. Pittsburgh took running back Najee Harris with its first-round pick this year and Harris will immediately become the featured back.

Cincinnati Bengals (+1200)

The Bengals may well finish last again, but the future appears bright around second-year QB Joe Burrow. He was playing terrific football last year before going down with a season-ending knee injury. The Bengals are banking on the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner to be the catalyst to ending a playoff drought that stretches to 2015. In his rookie year, Burrow made 10 starts and completed 65.3% of his passes for 2,688 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions. Burrow is full-go for camp but won’t play in any preseason games. He will be reunited with wideout Ja’Marr Chase, the No. 5 overall pick this year. The defensive line should be a strength with free agent additions Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi. The last time Chase and Burrow were teammates they won a championship at LSU.

Expert Predicted Order of FinishCleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati
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