Odds to win division: +300
Season win total: 8.5
The Ravens have a terrific coaching staff and a solid QB in Joe Flacco, and they play three of their four toughest games on their strong home field where they are 16-2 SU over the last two seasons.
However, we are not projecting a Super Bowl repeat this season. Baltimore broke the bank to sign QB Joe Flacco to a long-term deal. The decision to open the vault for Flacco will set the Ravens back a few years because they couldn’t afford to keep or sign other key contributors. The defense also lost two long-time leaders in linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed.
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Cincinnati Bengals (2012: 10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: +190
Season win total: 8.5
Cincinnati made the playoffs last year for the second consecutive season; it was just the fourth time in the past 21 years. Cincinnati has a highlight reel offense with QB Andy Dalton throwing to WR A.J. Green. The Bengals have a stout defense that improved immensely last season under coordinator Mike Zimmer. The stop unit will be scary good if they improve further this year.
However, they are feeling good off back-to-back post-season appearances and are walking a fine line between wins and losses. They’ve played extremely easy schedules over the last two seasons, but this year they will face five teams out of their division ranked higher in my power ratings. It will be extremely important for the Bengals to win the majority of their divisional games if they want a playoffs three-peat which looks less likely this year.
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Cleveland Browns (2012: 5-11 SU, 8-7-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: +600
Season win total: 6
Another season of change for the Cleveland Browns in 2013 as
they bring in their fifth different head coach in the past ten years. Michael
Lombardi takes over as the VP of player personnel, and he felt it would be best
to overhaul the coaching staff and change schemes to ignite the
organization. The new head coach is Rob Chudzinski, and his offensive
coordinator is Norv Turner who is a veteran play caller in the NFL.
Cleveland has ranked #24 or worse in points scored for five straight years, and in nine of the last ten years overall. However, the coaching changes should pay dividends for the Browns who last had a winning season in 2007 when Chudzinski was their offensive coordinator.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2012: 8-8 SU, 6-9-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: +170
Season win total: 9
Pittsburgh failed to make the
playoffs last season despite having the #1 overall defense in the NFL. They
won less than 9 games for the first time since 2006, and it was just the third
time since 1999. Last year was a fluke for Pittsburgh, and they will look
to bounce back with a strong season in 2013.
Pittsburgh’s roster is aging and lacks depth, but it is still talented. If the Steelers can stay healthy, they should return to the playoffs this season and win this division. Head coach Mike Tomlin has taken a tough approach this preseason with numerous days of live tackling and full contact which shows the desire Pittsburgh has to return to the top of this division.
AFC North prediction:
The Steelers are now an underrated team after their misleading 8-8 SU (6-9-1 ATS) season last year. This has created value with Pittsburgh at +170 to win the division and also Over 9 wins for the season.