Bengals Lead Odds Albeit as Shaky Favorites
The NFL is constantly changing. But one thing does not: the AFC North. Regardless if it’s the 1970s or today, this remains as brutal of a division as Westeros’s battle for the throne. The Cincinnati Bengals may lead the AFC North betting odds, but they are far from a sure bet at +150 to win. Their quarterback, Joe Burrow is hurt and the others are all looking at them like they are a wounded animal.
Which Team Will Dethrone the Bengals?
With Burrow out, the other AFC North teams must be looking at the Bengals like the tables have turned. Not so fast. The oddsmakers still maintain Cincinnati as favorites as Burrow is not expected to be out for too long. But a few weeks could be all it takes for a team like Baltimore or Cleveland to win. And don’t count out Pittsburgh.
Baltimore is the most likely team to unseat Cincinnati per the AFC North betting odds at +215. After all, this team emerged from the Lamar Jackson contract drama to get even better. The team rewarded its franchise QB with a long-term deal and loaded up on offense. Paired with a defense that finished third in scoring, the Ravens are a real contender.
Cleveland is third via the sportsbook at +375. This team finished last in the division’s NFL standings. But a fall season with Deshaun Watson could just change things. Watson looked rusty after not playing for nearly two seasons. But early reports indicate that he looks “even better” than he did in his final season in Houston.
And last but not least are the Steelers ate +450. Pittsburgh went on a run late last season for another winning record (9-8). Kenny Pickett had three fourth-quarter comebacks and four game-winning drivers despite leading an offense that ranked 26th in scoring and last in passing touchdowns. In his sophomore season, he could be much better with his star receiver George Pickens.
Early Chaos: First Two Weeks Could Decide AFC North
The best thing about the AFC North’s divisional race is it starts fast. Cleveland hosts Cincinnati in Week 1 then visits Pittsburgh the next. Baltimore also visits Cincinnati in Week 2. The NFL odds could be all over the place here given Burrow’s availability (or lack thereof). The line for Bengals-Browns in Week 1 is even off the board.
Bettors should monitor the AFC North betting odds closely as it is bound to shift significantly after the first two weeks. If Burrow sits both games, Cincinnati could be 0-2 and last in the division while the Browns could be 2-0. And if the gap between these teams is not as significant, the division title could be decided by one game. Or even a tiebreaker.
As such, Cincinnati’s division odds could be had at a longer line. After its first two weeks, its schedule gets a little easier with the Rams, Titans, and Cardinals. All three had 10+ losses last season and are expected to be just as bad this year. So shrewd bettors could pick up the Bengals if they start slow.
Schedule Shenanigans: Last Season Could Alter Division’s Fate
Finally, each team’s strength of schedule could just determine who comes out on top. Assuming each team finishes with a 3-3 record against each other, the non-division games will matter more. Each team faces the NFC West and AFC South. But three other games based on last season’s division rankings could be the tiebreaker here.
Cincinnati, finishing first, gets no favors as it takes on Kansas City, Buffalo, and Minnesota. The first two are favorites to win the AFC while Minnesota won 13 games. The Bengals beat Buffalo in the NFL playoffs but lost to the Chiefs.
Baltimore, which finished second, gets the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami, and Detroit. All teams went 9-8 with the first two making the playoffs. Pittsburgh then gets Las Vegas, New England, and Green Bay while Cleveland faces Denver, the New York Jets, and Chicago.
Pittsburgh somehow “lucked” into this as Cleveland’s slate includes three of the most improved teams after finishing last in their respective divisions. Thus, the Steelers could just benefit via the NFL scores and odds.
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