It is fair to say that there will be a lot of eyes on the AFC North this year. A division that has been a battle between three teams — to the exclusion of Cleveland — has just become far more competitive.
The Browns are tipped by the best NFL betting sites to complete their turnaround from the winless season just two years ago to claim the division. But is it really so easy to call?
Latest Odds to Win the AFC North
Cleveland Browns: +125
Pittsburgh Steelers: +190
Baltimore Ravens: +260
Cincinnati Bengals: +1800
The Cleveland Browns are the clear favorites here, with the Steelers and Ravens being given more than a fair chance by the oddsmakers. The Bengals look to be out of contention according to the odds.
The Hype Train
A lot has been said about how great the Browns will be this year. After Baker Mayfield led this team to a complete turnaround last season, there is confidence that Cleveland can take the division in 2019.
One major reason for this renewed belief is the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr. Undoubtedly the surprise trade of the year, OBJ has a lot of pressure on him to deliver, and Freddie Kitchens has a job on his hands trying to keep all the personalities in the locker room happy.
With all the attention on Cleveland, Pittsburgh has generally flown under the radar, but this division is still fairly wide open this year.
Much has been made of Antonio Brown’s departure, but there is still a lot to like on the Steelers offense. Both Rogers and Washington have enough speed to trouble opposing defenses this year. Big Ben enjoyed a very good season last year, and if he can drag his 37-year-old body around the league again this year, the Steelers could have a chance.
John Harbaugh made a big decision last year when he stuck with Lamar Jackson to lead the Ravens even after Joe Flacco returned from a hip injury. And it worked. Six wins in seven games secured the division before Baltimore fell to the Chargers in the wild card game.
Some big names have left the organization, with a few veterans brought in to steady the ship. The big question is whether or not the league will figure out Lamar Jackson before he extends his repertoire. If he can become the dual-threat QB we think he can be, odds of +260 for the Ravens to surprise this division look good.
If the AFC North is hard to call this year, there is one team that definitely won’t be in with a chance. The Bengals have become the new Browns.
Zac Taylor is coming in to turn around a team that has had three successive losing seasons and will be depending a lot on Andy Dalton with a lot of pressure on rookie Ryan Finley if plan A fails. But the major problem is the Bengals defense. Worst in the NFL last year, not much has changed to give Cincy much hope this season.
This division is far wider open than the Vegas bookmakers — and most NFL pundits — would lead us to believe. Cleveland winning is not predetermined, and both the Ravens and Steelers will push Cleveland all the way.
No one team is going to blow away the AFC North this year, and although I think it will ultimately be Cleveland that wins the division for the first time since it was the AFC Central way back in 1989, it is going to come down to the wire.