Odds To Win AFC North Division & Predictions
Only one team from this division made the playoffs a year ago (Cincinnati) and that’s a surprise given how competitive this division has been in the past. Other than last year, we’ve often seen two of the four from the AFC North play meaningful football in January (Super Bowl Contenders) and I believe we will get back to that this season. The Bengals are the reigning division champions and will have a tough road to repeat. Cincinnati also lost there two coordinators as each moved on to a head coaching position this year and that’s part of the reason they are one of my first future plays here.
Odds to Win the 2014 AFC North:
– Cincinnati Bengals +200
– Pittsburgh Steelers +200
– Baltimore Ravens +250
– Cleveland Browns +500
Cincinnati Bengals – 2014 Regular Season Win Total
Over 9 (-125)
Under 9 (-105)
Pittsburgh Steelers – 2014 Regular Season Win Total
Over 8½ (-140)
Under 8½ (+110)
Baltimore Ravens – 2014 Regular Season Win Total
Over 8½ (-140)
Under 8½ (+110)
Cleveland Browns – 2014 Regular Season Win Total
Over 6½ (-150)
Under 6½ (+120)
Play #1: Cincinnati Bengals Under 9 wins (+100)
Cincinnati has made the post-season three straight years and that coincides with their drafting of QB Andy Dalton. Dalton is one that never gets too much praise from the national media thanks to some poor performances in those playoff games, but he has always been a winner at every level he’s played. However, losing his offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden stings and while Cincinnati has promoted from within, they’ve still got a man at the top in Marvin Lewis who makes some questionable decisions at key moments. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game in Lewis’ tenure as coach (0-5) and he’s been at the helm since 2003. His career record is 89-85-1 as the Bengals head coach so it’s not like he’s ever been dominant and with two new guys calling the plays Cincinnati has too many hurdles to overcome this season to repeat as division champions. You’re going to need 10 wins to win the AFC North (most likely) and this version of the Bengals will top out at 8-8.
First off, Cincy has to deal with that first place schedule this season and that means facing the Broncos and Patriots. No other AFC North team squares off with those two teams and given that both are atop the list as favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, I don’t like Cincinnati’s chances in either of those games.
The Bengals also finish the year with five of their last seven on the road so they’d better make their hay early on in the year. The problem with that is that an early bye week (Week 4) combined with some tough games mixed in there, means Cincinnati won’t be running away with anything. Finishing up with Denver and Pittsburgh is no treat either (they play Pittsburgh twice in the last four weeks) and their final stretch is where I see them struggling to reach the .500 mark.
Play #2: Pittsburgh Steelers Over 8.5 wins (-165)
I’ll be the first to admit that this line is a little juicy for my liking at -165, but with my projection of Cincinnati falling off this year, someone’s got to step up and win this division and I believe it will be the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2011 when they lost in OT during Wildcard Weekend to Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos. Two straight seasons out of post-season play isn’t long for most franchises, but for Steelers fans it’s got to feel like an eternity. They are a team that’s gotten a bit younger this year on both sides of the ball which will help, and if they can navigate their way through some tough games early on, six of their final ten are at home and they could get hot at the right time.
Everyone knows what QB Ben Roethlisberger brings to the table, but with a healthy RB Le’Veon Bell back this year and a receiving core that can stretch the field and blow the lid off a defense, Pittsburgh should be a fun team to watch this year. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is still there and will have his guys flying to the ball per usual and with many of their tough non-division games behind at home this year (vs. Houston, Indy, New Orleans, KC), the schedule lines up really well for the Steelers to be back atop this division in 2014.
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