DraftKings Sportsbook has gone ahead and released the odds to win each NFL division in 2020. With free agency and the draft still to come, betting on division winners now gives us some room to potentially find some value. With a combination of looking back at 2019, and projecting for 2020, here’s where the potential value lies in the AFC North for the upcoming season.
Baltimore Ravens (-177)
The Ravens manhandled the rest of the AFC North in 2019, finishing 14-2 — the only team in the division to finish above .500. Baltimore finished six games ahead of the 8-8 Steelers, and the 6-10 Browns and 2-14 Bengals were never even in the conversation. The Ravens finished 5-1 within the division, with the only loss coming early in the season to Cleveland. Baltimore’s performance in the playoffs was a massive letdown, but it was one of the more dominant regular season performances we’ve seen in recent regular seasons. Aside from winning the division by a landslide, Baltimore also finished two games above the Chiefs and Patriots in the AFC.
But 2020 will bring new life for each team involved. Pittsburgh will get healthy again. Cleveland will get a chance to try and figure out how to turn talent into wins. Cincinnati will reload with the No. 1 overall pick. The Ravens still have the best roster in the division, but will need to fill in some pieces on defense. We already know Tony Jefferson is on his way out, but Jimmy Smith is another free agent from that secondary. It’d be nice to see Baltimore use free agency and the draft to help rebuild that secondary. But I think the holes across the rest of the division are being a little overlooked. At -177 I would lay the juice and bet Baltimore to win the AFC North.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+275)
The case can be made that there’s some value in betting Pittsburgh at this number. Entering last season, the Steelers were just behind the Browns as division favorites, with a win total set at nine. Ben Roethlisberger played a game and a half, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner were injured all season, and yet this team still won eight games. It did so led by a fantastic defense, with T.J. Watt somewhat in the conversation for Defensive POY.
Getting all of the offensive weapons back healthy in 2020 should almost certainly mean a better season for the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s free agency situation is also encouraging, as it won’t lose many pieces that wouldn’t be easily replaceable through free agency or the draft. If you’re not betting on Baltimore and want plus money in the AFC North, Pittsburgh makes the most sense to me. I prefer backing Jackson and the direction he’s trending in versus Big Ben, though. Roethlisberger could easily be on his way out, and an 0-3 start like last season makes the division nearly impossible to win.
Cleveland Browns (+550)
Betting the Browns at a number like this is enticing. Cleveland is an extremely talented team, yet is parlayed all that talent and hype into a six-win season in 2019. Remember, this roster was -130 to make the playoffs last season, and can now be had at +550 to win the division. It was a nightmare year for the Browns, who went just 2-6 on the road, and 1-4 to finish the season. It needs to be better on both sides of the ball, but what we really missed in 2019 was the explosive offense we expected to see.
One of the reasons the offense was so poor in 2019 was the offensive line. It’s an area Cleveland must improve in 2020, and LT Greg Robinson is entering free agency (and dealing with some other issues). If the Browns can sure up that line, it’s the first step in the right direction. But after that, Baker Mayfield needs to significantly improve his decision making. He’s saying all the right things this offseason, but we need to see him do it before I can back his Browns. I can’t see this team improving beyond an 8-8 record.
Cincinnati Bengals (+2000)
There’s not much we can reflect on from 2019 that’s going to make you want to bet on the Bengals in 2020. They won just two games, and were easily one of the worst teams in football. On top of that, A.J. Green is almost certainly going to walk away in free agency, as could some lesser known veterans looking for more of a win-now situation in 2020.
The good news for the Bengals is that they own the top pick in the draft, which will wind up being LSU QB Joe Burrow — DKSB has him pegged at -10000 to be the top selection. While it’s an extremely encouraging step for the franchise, it’s unlikely to be a move that catapults Cincy to the top of the division. Just save your money and look elsewhere. Bet on Burrow to win ROY if you must.
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