AFC North Odds: Betting the Exact Order After Free Agency
AFC North Odds: Betting the Final Order After Free Agency
The league-wide free agent and trade frenzy probably isn't over, but as the dust settles and the calendar turns to April, the month of the draft, it's come time to do some preliminary evaluations around where teams stand. This is not only the case for overall power rankings, either.
The race is all the way on for this year's division chases, and as a result, DraftKings went ahead and dropped betting odds on how each of the eight divisions could shake out. Odds are listed for each of the exact scenarios, listing the division winner at the top through the last-place finisher in fourth.
As we continue to go division by division, let's dive into what the AFC North has in store.
Top 5 Scenarios of AFC North Odds After Free Agency
|Odds||AFC North Exact Order|
|+550||1st CLE Browns/2nd CIN Bengals/3rd BAL Ravens/4th PIT Steelers|
|+600||1st CIN Bengals/2nd CLE Browns/3rd BAL Ravens/4th PIT Steelers|
|+600||1st CLE Browns/2nd BAL Ravens/3rd CIN Bengals/4th PIT Steelers|
|+650||1st BAL Ravens/2nd CLE Browns/3rd CIN Bengals/4th PIT Steelers|
|+700||1st CIN Bengals/2nd BAL Ravens/3rd CLE Browns/4th PIT Steelers|
Last year, Joe Burrow and the Bengals shocked everyone with a true leap into the elite of the AFC. They doubled down on their 10-7 regular season with a run to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Rams. And yet, they don't seem to be getting a ton of respect. Although their over/under is set at 10 wins, the Browns are now the favorites (+175) to win the division with new quarterback Deshaun Watson. The reigning AFC champs check in at +200 after two weeks of free agency.
A lot of people might put a break there, denoting a top two and a bottom two in the North. However, the odds would suggest the Ravens are not far behind. They're at +225 for the division crown and carry an expected win total of 9.5. That figure puts them two ahead of the Steelers, who are most commonly considered the bottom of the barrel due to the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. There doesn't appear to be a ton of faith in Mitch Trubisky assuming the lead role in Mike Tomlin's offense in Pittsburgh.
Can value be had by assuming a different set of storylines and outcomes?
AFC North Exact Order Value After Free Agency
|Odds||AFC North Exact Order|
|+3500||1st CIN Bengals/2nd BAL Ravens/3rd PIT Steelers/4th CLE Browns|
At the very top, there's immediate value in pivoting from the Browns as your first-place finisher come next January. Cincinnati already proved themselves last year, and Burrow is back and presumably better than ever. He's almost certain to make another leap in year three behind what figures to be a much-improved offensive line. After being sacked 70 times in 20 games, Burrow watched as the Bengals' front office went out and added tackle La'el Collins as well as guards Alex Cappa and Ted Karras. If they so wish, they could take things one step further to add via the draft, as they'll pick 31st on day one. They also re-signed key defensive cogs like B.J. Hill and Jessie Bates, the latter of which ranked 11th in PFF's free-agent rankings. We can admit that they are unlikely to boast a top-10 defense, but their offense is going to be up there with the very best.
In the case of Baltimore, they still have Lamar Jackson, and so long as he has a much healthier 2022, we should see him return to form as one of the most threatening offensive players in the league. That's especially the case when you consider a more experienced Marquise Brown and a full sophomore season from Rashod Bateman. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens picked up free agency's eighth-ranked player, safety Marcus Williams. If healthy, they're going to be a candidate for double-digit wins and push one of the other two teams down further than expected.
There's a chance that the team to come up short of expectations isn't the Steelers. A lot will come down to Mitch Trubisky's fit in the scheme and his development as more than only a mobile quarterback with game-managing capabilities. In the event he exceeds what Big Ben brought to the table last year, the offense should take a step forward as a balanced attack. They added James Daniels and Mason Cole on the offensive line, where they also maintained tackle Chukwuma Okafor. And as for the defense, Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt is joined by Myles Jack at the second level and corner Levi Wallace at the third level.
Pittsburgh didn't necessarily blow up the market with their moves, but they did a whole lot more than Cleveland in free agency. The Browns franchise-tagged tight end David Njoku, re-signed Anthony Walke,r and brought in Jacoby Brissett to be the backup behind Deshaun Watson. In a controversial move, Cleveland acquired the former Texans signal-caller and is likely to move on from Baker Mayfield. The thing is the three-time Pro Bowler's off-the-field situation will lead to a lengthy suspension for this year. Brissett won't be enough to overcome what might be an eight-game absence from Watson, and Cleveland hasn't made other moves to keep up with Cincinnati and others.
Flipping the North on its head based on a suspension that will probably become reality seems like the way to go. After all, +3500 odds call for a return of $3,500 on a $100 bet. That's a lot more bang for your buck.
Brett Oswalt has been writing about sports for five years, has covered everything from the NBA to College Football DFS, and previously served as an editor at numberFire. He is a Senior Workforce Planning Analyst at Highmark by day, and an avid sports fan and girl-dad by night. He resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Marley, daughter, Aria, and goldendoodle, Braun.