The term “smashmouth” football comes to mind when you mention the AFC North, because whenever two AFC North teams meet, it’s going to be a fierce battle. Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC North this season. The Westgate SuperBook posted the Baltimore Ravens at 4/9 odds, or -225 on the moneyline, to win the AFC North. But could Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers be a legitimate threat this year and prevent the Ravens from winning their third-straight division title?
Oddsmakers listed the Steelers at 15/4 odds to win the AFC North, or +375 on the moneyline. The Steelers will be playing the role of usurper this season.
The Steelers went 8-8 last season with Roethlisberger missing 14 games. Now that Roethlisberger is fresh off elbow surgery, the Steelers want a shot at tripping up the Ravens.
The Ravens, at 12-4, were the only team in the AFC North with a winning record last season. The Ravens went 5-1 in division play in 2019.
2020 AFC NORTH ODDS
Baltimore Ravens 4/9
Pittsburgh Steelers 15/4
Cleveland Browns 5/1
Cincinnati Bengals 40/1
The Cleveland Browns (6-10) and the Cincinnati Bengals (2-14) were a combined 8-24 last season. They were a combined 4-8 in division play. The Bengals whiffed last season with a disastrous 0-6 record in the AFC North.
The Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs are the co-favorites to win the 2021 Super Bowl at 5/1 odds.
It’s difficult to win the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons, which gives the Ravens a slight inside edge because they won’t have to face the dreaded Super Bowl hangover.
If you listen to all the preseason hype, then Lamar Jackson will win the MVP and lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory. Bookies set the Ravens over/under win total at 11.5 wins.
Jackson and the Ravens were the NFL’s top rushing team last year. They looked unstoppable on the ground and posted a 12-4 record. However, the Ravens were upset in the playoffs by the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional Round.
Haters quickly point out that Jackson is 0-2 in the playoffs as a starter over the past two seasons. But that’s the type of motivation that will fire him up.
“They are just pissed about it,” said head coach John Harbaugh. “They are not happy about it. I expect our guys to learn from that and understand what it takes to beat an opponent that is determined to beat you.”
EA Sports tapped Jackson to appear on the cover of the new version of their insanely popular video game, Madden Football. While many fans fear the dreaded “cover jinx”, it doesn’t faze Jackson, who essentially said, “Bring it on!”
Last Gasp for Big Ben
Fans in Pittsburgh thought that 2019 might be Roethlisberger’s last season at quarterback.
Big Ben, now 38, guided the Steelers to Super Bowl victories in 2005 and 2008, and has taken his share of lickings over the years. Fans wonder how much gas he has left in the tank.
His season ended abruptly in the second game of the season last year after an elbow injury. He appears to have fully recovered from elbow surgery and looks ready to roll this season. Oddsmakers pegged Roethlisberger as one of the co-favorites to win the NFL 2020 Comeback Player of the Year.
In 2018, Roethlisberger tossed a career-high 34 touchdowns (including 15 to Antonio Brown). Will he be able to have one more monster season before he hangs it up for good? If Roethlisberger stays healthy, the Steelers have a shot at picking off the Ravens. But when QBs reach their late 30s, they’re one big hit away from derailing their season.
Baker and ODB Bust?
The Cleveland Browns fell way short of last year’s lofty expectations with a 6-10 record; oddsmakers set their win total in 2019 at 10. At the start of the 2019 preseason, the Browns were 18/1 odds. The Browns became a popular Super Bowl pick once the team acquired the boisterous Odell Beckham.
Many prognosticators thought Baker Mayfield and Beckham would be the perfect combination to win the Browns their first-ever NFC North title. That didn’t happen.
The Browns haven’t won the AFC North since the NFL realigned divisions in 2002. The last time the Browns won a division, it happened back in 1989 when they were a part of the AFC Central.
The Browns are 5/1 odds to win the division this season, but they have to face Roethlisberger in a bounce-back year, and stop the Ravens who seem hell-bent on a mission to reach the Super Bowl.
The Future Rides on Joe Burrow
The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North twice between 2013 and 2015. But the team’s fallen on hard times since then with four consecutive losing seasons.
The Bengals went 2-14 last season and earned the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They drafted Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow (QB, LSU), and pegged him the savior of the franchise.
Meanwhile, the Bengals moved on from long-time QB Andy Dalton. Dalton got the last laugh when he signed with the Dallas Cowboys to become Dak Prescott’s backup.
The Westgate lists the Bengals as long shots to win the NFC North at 40/1 odds. If you’re looking for Super Bowl odds for the Bengals, you can find them at 200/1 odds. Once the Bengals drafted Burrow, a trickle of money came in on them to win the Super Bowl, and oddsmakers adjusted the line from 300/1 to 200/1.
In case you are wondering, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1991.