2016 AFC North Betting Preview

Ben Roethlisberger, Pernell McPheeThe AFC North was again a tough division last year, with both the Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) and Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) making the playoffs. These fierce division rivals faced off in the Wild Card round too, with the Steelers winning a gritty game.

The Baltimore Ravens (5-11) had a disappointing season, accumulating too many injuries to be competitive in such a tough division. But they’re expected to bounce back this year and feature another strong team.

It’s déjà vu for the Cleveland Browns (3-13), who once again suffered a terrible season that included cutting ties with first-round pick Johnny Manziel. Now coached by former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, Cleveland hopes to turn things around this year.

Can the Browns finally have a productive season in 2016? Find out as we cover the AFC North along with each team’s betting odds.

AFC North Betting Odds to Win Division (from GTBets)

Baltimore +300
Cincinnati +160
Cleveland +3000
Pittsburgh +120

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Projected Record 12-4

antonio-brown-steelersFew teams have been as lucky in the head coaching department as the Pittsburgh Steelers, who’ve been coached by either Bill Cower or Mike Tomlin for the past 25 years. Tomlin has won a Super Bowl (2008) and guided the team to a 92-52 record in his nine-year tenure.

This history of success doesn’t look to change much in 2016, with a number of offensive weapons back for Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger once again headlines the unit, while he’ll be throwing to Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton – arguably the league’s most-skilled trio of wide receivers.

One potential problem is that Bell, who tore his MCL last year, is suspended for the season’s first four games. Lucky for Pittsburgh, they have D’Angelo Williams to step in if Bell’s appeal isn’t successful.

Like always, the Steelers will have another good defensive unit. This starts with Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward at defensive end, while the secondary looks to be the strongest that it’s been in years.

As long as Pittsburgh stays healthy, they’ll feature an explosive offense that can’t be stopped. Moreover, look for the Steelers to improve upon last year’s 10-6 record and win the division.

2. Cincinnati Bengals: Projected Record 10-6

aj-green-footballOnce again, Cincinnati turned in another good regular season under coach Marvin Lewis, only to lose in the postseason again. This makes Lewis 0-7 lifetime in playoff games, including an 0-5 mark over the last five years.

Perhaps Cincinnati would’ve ended this winless streak last year if quarterback Andy Dalton hadn’t gotten injured. After years of being blamed for Cincy’s postseason struggles, Dalton had his best year ever with 25 TD passes, just 7 interceptions, and a 106.3 passer rating.

Dalton should again have a strong year with the weapons at his disposal. A.J. Green is one of the best receivers in football, while Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill form an elite one-two running back punch. The only question mark is tight end Tyler Eifert, who’s on the PUP list right now.

The defense looks strong all-around, with a good front seven, and Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick locking down opposing receivers.

Expectations are high again in Cincinnati, and fans will expect the team’s first playoff win in the last eight tries. Anything less than this will be considered a failure that might cost Lewis his job.

3. Baltimore Ravens: Projected Record 8-8

joe-flaccoAs mentioned earlier, last year was a big disappointment for Baltimore since they’ve been a perennial playoff team under John Harbaugh. In fact, last season marked just the second time in Harbaugh’s eight-year career that the Ravens failed to make the playoffs.

Injuries were the biggest culprit, as even franchise quarterback Joe Flacco couldn’t stay healthy for more than half the year. His favorite target, Steve Smith, also missed half the year after racking up 670 receiving yards and four touchdowns in just seven games. Add in a season-ending injury to stalwart DE Terrell Suggs, and Baltimore lost most of their leadership on both sides of the ball.

Baltimore hopes to stay healthy this year, and they’ve added some talent just in case. This includes left tackle Ronnie Stanley, a top pick out of Notre Dame, and All-Pro safety Eric Weddle.

The Ravens have a good opportunity to start fast, given that their first four opponents are Buffalo, @Cleveland, @Jacksonville, and Oakland. If they don’t go at least 3-1 in this stand, they could miss the postseason for a second-straight year.

4. Cleveland Browns: Projected Record 4-12

robert-griffin-brownsThe Browns don’t have any illusions about the playoffs, given that they’re 37-91 over the last eight seasons. It would be nice for this franchise to show some potential in 2016.

This begins with new coach Hue Jackson and starting QB Robert Griffin III. After flaming out in Washington, Griffin is looking for redemption in Cleveland, and he has the stage to do so with a rebuilding Browns team. Unfortunately, he won’t have a good offensive line to protect him, outside of left tackle Joe Thomas. The main hope for this offense is that Griffin’s legs can save the team some sacks.

Griffin’s job won’t be any easier considering that the team’s top receiver, Josh Gordon, will miss the first four games of the season. At least the Browns used their top pick on receiver Cory Coleman, who should help fill in while Gordon is gone.

The defense could certainly stand to improve after giving up 27 points per game and ranking dead last in point differential (-9.6). Of course, this could be improved simply by the offense staying on the field to give the defense some rest.

In any case, Cleveland needs improvement in a lot of areas. Hopefully they get this improvement and can be competitive by 2017.

5 NFL Offenses to fear in 2015

2015-nfl-playoffs-russell-wilsonThey say defense wins championships, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a great offense. This is especially the case in the NFL where, due to complex defensive schemes, points can be rather hard to come by. So what NFL offenses figure to give opposing defensive coordinators fits all season long? Let’s take a look at five offenses to be feared as we head into the 2015 NFL season.

5. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle’s bread and butter is typically their defense, which has been stellar over the past couple of seasons. However, they didn’t get to two straight Super Bowls by having a weak, anemic offense. QB Russell Wilson is one of the most-dangerous duel threats in the league, beating teams with both his arm and legs. Then there’s Marshawn Lynch, who is always good for several highlight-reel plays that involve trucking defenders en route to the end zone. Add new addition Jimmy Graham and you’ve got one highly explosive team that will be racking up some major points.

sam-bradford-eagles-14. Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly has a knack for developing excellent offensive teams, and this year’s version will be no different. In fact, it could be even better with Sam Bradford as the new quarterback of the Eagles. Bradford isn’t the only new face in town, though, with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews joining Darren Sproles in what should be a very dominant backfield. Philadelphia finished ninth in rushing last season (124.4 RYPG), but don’t be surprised if they’re number one this year.

3. Green Bay Packers

Last year was one of the best of Aaron Rodgers’ career as he threw for 4,381 yards, 38 TDs and 5 INTs, while generating a 112.2 QBR. With weapons like Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, it certainly won’t be difficult for a healthy Rodgers to replicate his numbers from last season. And once Eddie Lacy got going last year, he gave Green Bay a truly devastating all-around attack. The Packers led the league with 30.4 PPG and there’s no reason to think that they can’t do the same again in 2015.

ben-roethlisberger-ravens2. Pittsburgh Steelers

Traditionally a defensive team, the blue-collar town of Pittsburgh is learning to embrace what’s become an outstanding offense. And it’s not easy to see who’s leading this offense based on last year’s stats: Ben Roethlisberger (4,952 passing yards), Antonio Brown (1,698 receiving yards) and Le’Veon Bell (1,361 rushing yards). These totals equal 8,011 yards, which is the most by a three-player trio in league history. But Pittsburgh’s offensive prowess goes beyond just these three because receivers Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Auburn third-rounder Sammy Coates will also pile up stats.

1. Indianapolis Colts

The greatness of Andrew Luck shined through once again as he tallied 4,761 passing yards, 40 passing TDs and 16 INTs. And what’s amazing is that he didn’t really have much of a supporting run game to keep defenses honest. That should be solved going into this season, with Frank Gore joining the Colts. And the passing game will once again be excellent with T.Y. Hilton back, free-agent Andre Johnson, and first-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett. With the most weapons that he’s ever had in his career, expect Luck to put up his best numbers yet in his 4th season.

Clemson’s Tajh Boyd supposedly lost $80k on NFL Betting

tajh-boyd-gamblingThis past week was no doubt a bad one for star Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. Not only did he have his worst game (156 passing YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT’s) in a loss to Florida State, but he’s also dealing with a controversy involving gambling debts.

According to IBNSportsWrap.com, Boyd has allegedly racked up $80,000 in gambling debts. And the massive losses are said to have come through betting on NFL games. It’s not known whether he lost the money through straight betting, live wagering or prop bets. But IBN did include some other juicy details in their “exclusive,” as you can see below:

Sources told us that Tajh Boyd owes over $80,000 in unpaid gambling debts.

The Clemson QB owed 2 bookies big money, source says that most of the money is on failed NFL bets but no bets have been placed on his team as of last weekend. The last known action from the “Tiger” is a $15,000 bet on UCF Friday night (+14) that actually won and kept him under his cut-off limit which is $100,000.

Our source indicates that the 2 bookies are giving him this much credit to wager on because they know he’s in line for big payday after this coming NFL draft (1st or 2nd rd pick likely). According to our source, those bookies feel safe because they have text and other info if Boyd would attempt to stiff them.

Although Boyd’s NFL Draft stock has slipped somewhat following the Florida State game – where he was horribly inaccurate and visibly shaken – he would still make more than enough to pay back the mystery bookies. After all, many experts still expect the Clemson star to go in the middle of the first round. But this is provided that there’s even any truth to this story in the first place.

tajh-boyd-gambling-1IBNSportsWrap isn’t exactly the best known website out there. In fact, most people have never even heard of IBN, before this story of course. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is one of these people, as he discussed this while backing up his quarterback.

“I have no reason not to believe Tajh Boyd,” he said. “He’s never lied to me before. His character and integrity from my view are impeccable, so I’m going to take his word over some website that I’ve never heard of, ever.”

Boyd also shot down the rumors about his supposed gambling habit. “I have no idea where that came from,” he said. “It was kind of shocking to me as well. That, on top of the loss (to Florida State), it made for a rough little weekend.”

Seeing as how there have never been any stories regarding Boyd and gambling in the past, it is hard to take IBN’s story at face value. It’s especially damaging to Boyd’s Heisman Trophy campaign, which already took a nosedive after the loss to the Seminoles.

According to ESPN’s Heisman Watch, Boyd has fallen down to eighth, while Marcus Mariota (73 votes) and Jameis Winston (67 votes) are in a close battle for first. There’s still quite a bit of time left in the 2013 college football season, though. Perhaps Boyd can turn things around, climb back up in the Heisman race and put the gambling rumors all behind him.