Last season saw the AFC North provide three postseason teams. For this season, the AFC North is poised to be one of the most competitive out there.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns aim for another postseason showing. The Cincinnati Bengals hope to improve with Joe Burrow fully recovered after a brutal knee injury.
The Ravens and Browns are the teams with more upside. Both rely on strong rushing attacks and have young QBs like Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield.
As for the Steelers, they trust their elite defense and hope for a decent enough offense to get into January football.
The AFC North is one to watch. This article will cover everything about this division and a detailed guide on how to bet.
The records may be misleading. The Steelers won the division with a 12-4 record. They started the year 11-0 and had a massive collapse at the end of the season. They got dumped by the Browns in the Wild Card weekend.
Baltimore finished with an 11-5 record, guided by QB Lamar Jackson. The Ravens had a stellar rushing offense and a very competent defense all around.
The positive is they won a playoff game. That was the major criticism that followed Jackson since his rookie season.
It took a Coach of the Year season to make the Browns relevant again. Kevin Stefanski made Cleveland a dangerous team. Their backfield duo of RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt was a nightmare to defend.
It was impossible to stop them behind an elite offensive line. DE Myles Garrett was hunting QBs high and low on defense as he put yet another Pro-Bowl season.
The Bengals hype derailed real fast. QB Joe Burrow balled out, but the lack of protection he had was concerning. Those fears came to reality as a hit injured his knee and took him out of the season.
Baltimore is a contender, period. It appears as the team has everything they need to push for a Super Bowl. It’s a primarily rushing offense, but the lack of receivers was a concern they addressed in the draft.
Baltimore has a complete roster with an elite QB and a top-tier coaching staff. Winning the AFC North at +125 is the first step to solidify themselves as Super Bowl-bound.
It was decades in obscurity for the Cleveland Browns, but after a successful 2020, the only way is up for them. They have a stacked roster.
Hunt, Chubb, and WRs like Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. make the Browns a powerhouse. It also provides QB Baker Mayfield with lots of weapons.
Their pass rush is great with Garrett, and they added OLB Jadeveon Clowney as well. Their needs were secondary, but they covered that with DBs John Johnson, Troy Hill, and Greg Newsome. The Browns will be a problem.
The Steelers’ offensive line saw four of their starters either leave or retire. This is not good news. They were the best QB protecting the line in 2021, and Ben Roethlisberger is not mobile at all. They drafted a stud like Najee Harris at RB, a dire need for Pittsburgh.
Their defense lost OLB Bud Dupree but won’t miss him much as they are too loaded in talent. They led the NFL in sacks and interceptions last year.
You can expect something along those lines again in 2021. Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season as head coach, but that +400 is still unlikely to cash.
The primary need of the Bengals was to protect Joe Burrow. With the fifth pick in the draft, they skipped—still in awe—a highly-regarded prospect OT Penei Sewell. Instead, they chose WR Ja’Marr Chase, who was Burrow’s preferred target at LSU.
Chase is a flat-out baller. The Bengals got OT Riley Reiff in the offensive line.
Cincy’s goal is not the postseason but to improve from last year’s dreadful season. If Burrow stays healthy, don’t act surprised if they steal a game here and there.
*Super Bowl Champion
Shop lines. Always go shopping for NFL lines. The fact that one sportsbook has the Steelers at +400 doesn’t mean it’s the best option. You can find them at +425 in other places if you’re lucky.
There are some things you should note when looking at an odds table. The odds are the first thing, of course. Odds will tell you which team is the favorite (lower numbers equals more favoritism).
They also point out how much you would profit if you win the bet. For example, a $100 bet on Baltimore (+125) would give you $125 in winnings and a total payout of $225.
Following the odds, look at the handle. This represents the percentage of total bets a team is getting to win the division.
For example, the Steelers have a 6% handle, which means 6% of all money wagered on the AFC North is going for Pittsburgh.
Last but not least, have a glance at the percentage of bets. This is the number of bets—not the amount—each team receives.
For example, the Browns have 54% of all bets. This doesn’t translate to how much money people wagered on Cleveland. They can have 54% of the bets, but 72% of the handle, meaning bigger bets are being placed on them.
1. Go to your favorite sportsbook and log in.
2. Look for the NFL tab.
3. Click on the Division’s tab from the drop-down menu.
4. Choose the odds and team you will bet on.
5. Place your bet from the bet slip window—usually—on the right side of the screen.