AFC North Odds 2018 – Previews & Betting Analysis

leveon-bell-vs-new-englandThe Pittsburgh Steelers come in as the division favorites once again. Their loaded offense looks to keep them on top of the AFC North.

The Baltimore Ravens came within less than a minute of earning a Wild Card spot. They’ve since retooled their offense in hopes of earning a postseason bid.

After spoiling the Ravens’ season in Week 17, the Cincinnati Bengals hope to return to playoff form. However, they need to reverse a losing trend that’s lasted for two seasons.

Nobody in the division has more young talent than the Cleveland Browns. But will they finally be able to turn this talent into a winning season?

You can see the odds on each AFC North team below along with their season outlooks.

2018 Odds on Winning AFC North

Here are the GTBets odds for all four teams in the division. Note that these odds are available on and off leading up to the regular season:

  • Baltimore +385
  • Cincinnati +1000
  • Cleveland +1000
  • Pittsburgh -250

2018 AFC North Team Previews

Pittsburgh Steelers (-250)

antonio-brown-steelersBen Roethlisberger is talking more about retirement in recent years. But he still has the arm strength to make fast, short throws mixed with downfield passes.

He’ll once again benefit from having Antonio Brown, the league’s top receiver. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had a very good rookie campaign, will serve as a nice complement to Brown.

Running back Le’Veon Bell is yet another option in the passing game. He exercises a patient run style and will benefit from the Steelers’ elite offensive line.

Pittsburgh suffered a huge loss with Ryan Shazier’s horrific back injury last season. The results showed as they frequently gave up both big runs and passes.

However, they also led the league with 56 sacks last season, including 12 by Cam Heyward. The team also brought in safety Morgan Burnett and first-round pick Terrell Edmunds to help with the secondary. Pittsburgh’s young linebacking core won’t be able to make up for the loss of Shazier, but they should improve in 2018.

It’s almost impossible to see anybody but the Steelers winning the division. They have a realistic chance of starting 10-0 and should definitely match last season’s win total of 12. How far they go in the playoffs all depends upon how the defense rounds into form.

Baltimore Ravens (+385)

joe-flaccoJoe Flacco has yet to recapture the magic he had during Baltimore’s 2013 Super Bowl title run. But the Ravens’ aren’t ready to go away from him yet and upgraded the receiving corp to help Flacco.

New receiving additions include Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown. Tight ends Mark Andress and Hayden Hurtst will also provide decent targets.

The run game looks strong after Alex Collins emerged as a true starting back. Kenneth Dixon could also figure into the mix after missing last year with a knee injury.

Baltimore has pieces of a good defense, including linebacker Terrell Suggs and a strong secondary. They also forced a league-high 34 turnovers in 2017.

The main cause for worry, though, is that the Ravens will face a much better crop of quarterbacks outside their division. Should-be-backups like Brett Hundley, Matt Moore, Tom Savage, and E.J. Manuel have been replaced by the likes of Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton.

Baltimore benefited from a favorable schedule last year and lucky bounces in the turnover department. It’s hard to see them matching last season’s win total, especially if they fail to sweep the Browns and Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals (+1000)

aj-green-footballCincinnati had a terrible offensive start last season and fired coordinator Ken Zampese after just two games. But much of these problems can also be blamed on a weak offensive line.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Bengals upgraded in this area by drafting C Billy Price with their first pick and adding former Buffalo tackle Cordy Glenn.

The Bengals’ skilled players should shine as long as the offensive line holds up. A.J. Green is still one of the league’s best receivers, while running back Joe Mixon claimed the starting job in his rookie season. The team will also benefit from receiver John Ross actually getting a chance to play after being hurt throughout 2017.

Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap form an excellent pass-rushing duo for Cincy. The two have combined for over 60 career sacks.

LB Vontaze Burfict is another productive member of this defense when healthy. The Bengals have also added Preston Brown to the linebacking corp.

Darqueze Dennard, Dre Kilpatrick, and William Jackson form a very good secondary that limited opposing teams to just 6.5 yards per pass attempt.

Cincinnati’s defense looks strong at all three levels. Their season all depends upon how the offense performs coming off a lackluster 2017.

If everything goes right, the Bengals could make the playoffs. Furthermore, they might even be a good bet to win the division with long odds of +1000.

Cleveland Browns (+1000)

myles-garrett-cleveland-injuryCleveland’s plan on offense is to start veteran Tyrod Taylor and see where things go. Assuming the Browns don’t rack up too many wins, we should see first-overall pick Baker Mayfield eventually.

One of the biggest problems for Cleveland’s offense last year was receivers who couldn’t create separation. They went out and added Miami’s Jarvis Landry to help in this department. They also return Josh Gordon, who looked great the last few games after coming off a lengthy suspension.

The running game will also be better with the addition Carlos Hyde serving as the early down tailback. Duke Johnson should get plenty of work once again on third downs.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams helped this team improve last year, with Cleveland ranking around the middle of the league in terms of yards allowed per play and yards allowed per game. The points-per-game numbers weren’t too good, but the Browns committing 41 turnovers put the defense in difficult spots.

Adding former Green Bay corner Demarious Randall and drafting Denzel Ward in the first round should help the secondary. DE Myles Garrett will emerge as a beast, provided he doesn’t have any more injuries.

Cleveland is coming off only the second 0-16 season in NFL history. The 2018 schedule doesn’t do them any favors either, because their first eight-game stretch will be brutal. Nevertheless, we expect them to at least notch a few wins thanks to an upgraded roster.

Baltimore CB Jimmy Smith Suspended for 4 Games

baltimore-cornerback-jimmy-smith-suspendedThe Baltimore Ravens have an outside shot to make the 2018 NFL playoffs. But their odds have taken a hit after learning that cornerback jimmy Smith will receive a four-game suspension from the NFL. Smtih violated the league’s policies on personal conduct.

The league found “evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors by Jimmy toward his former girlfriend.”

Baltimore responded by calling Smith’s actions “inappropriate and wrong.” They also consulted domestic violence experts regarding the matter and have had Smith undergo clinical evaluation.

Second Suspension for Smith

This is a second time that Smith has served a four-game suspension in his career. He was also suspended towards the end of last year for using banned performance enhancers. Lucky for him, he was already on the injured reserve list due to a torn Achilles.

2018 is different, though, because Smith has rehabbed himself back into shape and was ready for the season. Now, the team will run through their first four games without their top cornerback.

Smith Issues an Apology

Smith has apologized for his actions, telling reporters that he wants to be “a better person and better father.”

He added, “I would like to sincerely apologize to my former girlfriend, the NFL, the Ravens organization, my coaches, my teammates, my fiancée and all our fans. I’m very disappointed that my past actions have led to this suspension.

“I believe I am, and will continue to try to be, a better person and a better father because of this. I am committed to being the best I can be, both on and off the field. … I take full responsibility for my past conduct.”

When will Smith be Back?

Smith won’t be eligible to return until Week 5, when the Ravens face the Cleveland Browns. This leaves the Ravens facing the Bills, Bengals, Broncos, and Steelers without their elite cover corner.

The top receiver on these teams include Kelvin Benjamin, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, and Antonio Brown, respectively.

2018 Baltimore Ravens Odds – Ravens are Worse Off without Smith

The Baltimore Ravens had a solid 9-7 season last year. But a last-second loss to the Cincinnati Bengals prevented them from grabbing an AFC Wild Card slot.

Our current GTBets NFL odds list the Ravens’ chances of winning 8.5 games at +100. The odds against them doing so are -130, meaning we see them most likely having a .500 season or worse. Given Smith’s suspension, the -130 line on Baltimore not winning 8.5 games is looking more attractive.

We have Baltimore at +4500 with regard to their odds of winning Super Bowl 53. Nothing is outside the realm of possibility. But the Ravens are facing an uphill climb with regard to winning the playoffs — let alone winning the Super Bowl.