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AFC North Prediction and Picks

Jun 26, 2023 EST

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AFC North Prediction and Picks

The AFC North is always one of the toughest races within the NFL as there are only 4 teams and All 4 teams have the potential to win the division. All four teams have plenty of firepower and have made the AFC North one of the Best Divisions overall.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are back-to-back division winners of the AFC North. That’s already led to a Super Bowl appearance and an AFC Championship tilt. Hell, the Bengals have only been eliminated by Super Bowl-winning teams — the Rams in 2021 and the Chiefs in 2022 — while Burrow has been healthy.

At +140 on DraftKings the Bengals offer a more proven option for bettors still looking for plus odds value. The team has two new safeties after Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell left in free agency, plus some questionable depth at cornerback. Still, the team has made plenty of moves to rectify the losses.

Cincinnati added left tackle Orlando Brown to aid the offensive line in a ferocious AFC North that never shies away from contact. Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt should thrive in an expanded role, and the addition of first-round pick Myles Murphy — a defensive end out of Clemson — gives the Bengals depth it has rarely had on its defensive line.

It’s only fair Cincinnati sits as the favorite once more to rule the North. The team’s win line sits at o11.5, with the books expecting the Bengals to repeat or improve upon its 12-win. Given how the rest of the division has improved it seems fair to expect some regression to its 10-win team in 2021. Of course, that squad still made it to Super Bowl LVI.

The Bengals rank 17th in strength of schedule for 2023.

  • Win line: 11.5
  • Pick: Under
  • Prediction: 11-6

    AFC North Prediction and Picks

    Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are more than eqiupped to win the AFC North and maybe even the Entire Thing! Lamar’s contract disputes are over, the Ravens added Many Weapons to Offense! If Lamar stays healthy all season the RAVENS WILL MAKE a SUPERBOWL RUN!

Baltimore is looking to win the conference for the first time since the 2019-20 season.

The Ravens are shaped up for a huge bounce-back season after injuries yet again struck the city of Baltimore. RB J.K. Dobbins was recovering from a simultaneously torn ACL, LCL, hamstring and meniscus injury. Backup RB Gus Edwards had his own ACL recovery to deal with. Rashod Bateman couldn’t stay on the field yet again, missing all but six games.

Hell, DeMarcus Robinson led Baltimore’s wideout room in receiving yards (458) despite starting just five games. Even star Mark Andrews posted career lows in yards-per-reception (11.6) and catch percentage (64.6%).

So naturally, the team signed Odell Beckham Jr. to help the team stay healthy.

Jokes aside, the Ravens’ offense appears to be better than ever. Adding Beckham and Zay Flowers provides Baltimore with its deepest receiving room in recent years. The rushing attack, with Dobbins healthier, should come close to its No. 1 form from 2020. He was already among the best in breakaway runs before the injury and has always boasted efficient yards per carry.

With the Jackson contract debacle in the rear-view mirror the only thing stopping the Ravens from seizing the division is the injury bug. Burrow and the Bengals are great, but Baltimore at +240 is a lovely value.

The Ravens rank 21st in strength of schedule for 2023.

  • Win line: 9.5
  • Pick: Over
  • Prediction: 11-6

Pittsburgh Steelers

Head coach Mike Tomlin has yet to have a losing season at the helm of the Steelers. This certainly won’t be the article to contradict the record, but it may yet again be a close call behind the Steel Curtain.

The Steelers had a tumultuous 2022 season. T.J. Watt, who won Defensive Player of the Year in 2021, missed seven games due to injury. Mitchell Trubisky was supposed to serve as a suitable bridge quarterback but instead fell apart like a bridge made of Lincoln Logs. Najee Harris struggled behind a pitiful offensive line while recovering from a summer foot injury.

It’s wild that the team still won nine games. Now the team is ready to see what Kenny Pickett can do in his sophomore season.

Pickett’s rookie campaign wasn’t a season to remember. The offense had zero downfield ability, epitomized by the quarterback’s putrid 6.1 yards per attempt, which ranked 33rd in a league with 32 NFL teams. That resulted in simplistic results and the worst Steelers offense since 2019 when Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the season.

Pittsburgh added some key offensive linemen this offseason to expand on the project it kickstarted in last year’s free agency. The Steelers added former Eagles Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig, two tough guards which yield at least one starting spot. It drafted Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones in the first round to compete with Dan Moore at left tackle, a sorely needed upgrade.

The team has a good rushing attack with Harris and Jaylen Warren, who played very well in a rotational role as a rookie. The offense will only go as far as Pickett takes it, though, so betting on the Steelers means taking on that risk.

The Steelers rank 25th in strength of schedule, so that could help.

AFC North Prediction and Picks

  • Win line: 8.5
  • Pick: Over
  • Prediction: 9-8

Cleveland Browns

Things didn’t go as planned for the Cleveland Browns. The team was 4-7 while Deshaun Watson was suspended but remained a Wild Card hopeful. However, Watson’s underwhelming six-game performance led Cleveland down a slide back into the mud of last place.

The former Texan averaged just 184 passing yards per game. If Watson had played enough to qualify, he would’ve ranked 31st among quarterbacks in the category, squaring shoulders with Pickett and Baker Mayfield. He also had a career low QBR of 38.3, which if he qualified, would’ve put him down at 27th right next to Russell Wilson.

The Browns should improve from its 17th-ranked scoring offense after adding Elijah Moore and a full offseason with Watson.

But a middling offense wasn’t why the Browns finished dead last in the AFC North for the 14th time since 2002. The defense allowed 135 rushing yards per game, 25th in the league. It also struggled to hit opposing quarterbacks. Despite having two-time All-Pro Myles Garrett, the team averaged just two sacks per game, tied for 26th in the NFL.

Cleveland had 34 sacks. Garrett had 16 of them, and nobody else had more than three. That won’t cut it in the divisional race.

The team spent the entire offseason fixing the defensive line. It added Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in free agency and traded for pass-rushing linebacker Zadarius Smith. The Browns also gave a four-year, $57 million contract to Dalvin Tomlinson, a great run defender.

Things are looking up for the Browns. But in a tough divisional tilt, it’s hard to imagine the Browns winning the division. After all, Cleveland hasn’t done that since 1989 and has finished in second place just three times in that span.

The Browns do rank 26th in strength of schedule, best in the division.

  • Win line: 9.5
  • Pick: Under
  • Prediction: 8-9

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