The Cleveland Browns gained some ground in the AFC North last week as the only team in the division to record a win. The Browns held on despite a late surge by the Baltimore Ravens, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals both lost close games to the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.
The result is a division that’s more bunched up than ever. The Ravens still lead at 8-5, with the Browns and Bengals at 7-6, and the Steelers last at 6-6-1. So let’s look at some of the NFL betting odds in the AFC North this week.
Raiders at Browns (+1.5)
If I’m betting one AFC North team this week, it’s going to be the Browns at home against the Las Vegas Raiders, even though Baker Mayfield and others may be out with COVID-19. The Raiders have lost five of the last six games, including last week’s blowout by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cleveland ranks 10th for rushing attempts per game (28.8), so I’m expecting to see Nick Chubb get a lot of touches this week. The Raiders struggle against the run, allowing 125.3 yards per game (26th). Chubb averages 5.5 yards a carry. Considering that the Browns are missing several key players due to their COVID outbreak (QB Baker Mayfield, guard Wyatt Teller, and WR Jarvis Landry), I expect them to lean heavily on the running game.
On the other side, I don’t believe that the Raiders’ running game (84.6 yards per game) can do much against a decent Browns rush defense (106.2 yards per game). I believe that this matchup will create a one-dimensional Raiders team, much like it did last week when Las Vegas ran for just 44 yards and lost 48-9. Clevelands’ passing defense only allows 215 yards per game.
Bengals (+120) at Broncos
The Bengals are 4-4 in their last eight games. This week, they’ll take on a Denver Broncos team that’s also 4-4 in their previous eight games.
The Bengals have a strong run defense that only allows 93.1 yards per game. Cincinnati has allowed just 75.5 rushing yards per game in the last four games, with only one team, the San Francisco 49ers, reaching 100 yards. This could cause some problems for Denver.
The Broncos are built for the run and do it reasonably well (123.1 yards per game). If the Bengals can stymie the ground game, it will force Denver to rely on Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater is ranked 20th in QBR and has thrown just 18 touchdown passes on the season, making him a complement to the run game rather than a focal point on offense. The last time the Broncos failed to rush for 100 yards in a game was Week 10 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, and the result was a 30-13 loss.
I believe that this game will be similar to the Eagles matchup for the Broncos. I’m picking the Bengals to win after shutting down Denver’s running game.
Who Will Win the AFC North?
I believe that the Ravens will win the AFC North, but with all the teams within a few games of each other, anything could happen. What do you think? Do you agree with the picks above?
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