NFL AFC North Division Preview

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BetMGM @BETMGM Sep 09, 2020, 6:13 AM
Cincinnati Bengals offensive and defensive units face off at the line during a scrimmage

Year after year, we see passionate battles taking place between division rivals, and the AFC North Division has been known to produce some of the very best matchups in recent years. It has also offered plenty of prime opportunities for NFL betting.

Last year, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens were dominant from the very start of the season. All year, they appeared to be the team to beat, until they ran into trouble against the Titans in the playoffs. This year, John Harbaugh and the Ravens will have to find a way to remain on top with a target on their backs from being the reigning division champs. Though they still have the NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson, the division looks to be more competitive from top to bottom.

The NFL AFC North 2020 Division breakdown

From Cleveland’s coaching change, Ben Roethlisberger’s return from injury, and of course the addition of Joe Burrow to the Bengals, Baltimore will have a bigger challenge as they aim to win the division again.

Let’s take a deeper dive into how the division could shape up going into the 2020 NFL season. With that, we will also take a brief look at NFL betting picks and predictions for how the AFC North standings will play out.

4 - Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Boyd of Cincinnati Bengals in action during a scrimmage on August 30, 2020

Being a Cincinnati Bengals fan last season was brutal. Star wide receiver A.J. Green missed the whole season, and without him, Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense struggled mightily. Any hope to contend quickly faded. The 0-11 start to the season didn’t offer much to cheer about.

With an offseason full of change, Andy Dalton being released, and Joe Burrow becoming the #1 draft pick, there is a new sense of optimism in Cincinnati. With A.J. Green and offensive tackle Jonah Williams coming back from injury, the Bengals hope their offense looks completely different than in 2019.

Cincinnati may go through some growing pains going against the more experienced teams in the division. This season figures to provide hope for Bengals fans, as they get to witness a special talent in Joe Burrow as he takes over the offense. Even with a new star quarterback, they still appear to be a season or two away from giving the rest of the division a true run for their money.

Cincinnati Bengals Regular Season Record Prediction: 4-12

Chance to make the playoffs? In this division, this year? Slim to none. Cincinnati fans, for your sake, we hope we’re wrong.

3 - Cleveland Browns

Linebacker Sione Takitaki of Cleveland Browns works out during training camp at the Brown's training facility

Last year, the Cleveland Browns were largely a disappointment. After adding Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt, expectations were high going into the season. Unfortunately, you can’t win football games on paper. Rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens had a bit too much on his plate.

With the coaching change from Freddie Kitchens to Kevin Stefanski, the Cleveland Browns hope to turn a corner. After making several more additions such as Austin Hooper, Jack Conklin and rookie Jedrick Wills Jr., Cleveland should have a very potent offensive attack.

Although they added a lot of talent once again, there seems to be a few more growing pains after switching to yet another new coach. We expect Kevin Stefanski to have better control over his team than Kitchens did. For Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the Cleveland offense, it could be a make or break year. Or they could find themselves playing elsewhere next season.

I truly believe in Kevin Stefanski’s ability to lead a football team. He has worked with plenty of different talented offensive personalities in his career, this shouldn’t be any tougher for him. Although the Browns are in a very competitive division, this season should present a better chance for them to make the playoffs. Maybe this is the year Baker Mayfield puts it all together?

Cleveland Browns Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9

Chance to make the playoffs? 65 percent - could easily be higher.

2 - Pittsburgh Steelers

Jordan Berry of Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens during M&T Bank Stadium

Pittsburgh, as long as Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, always has a chance. After being limited to just two games before his injury woes took him out for the season, you can bet he’s itching to get back out there. After all, the last full season he played, he led the league in passing yards with 5,129. Now that he’s healthy again, look for Big Ben to bounce back in a big way.

In a mid-season acquisition, the Steelers traded their first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick. He proved to be a true game-changer, producing turnovers for the Steelers defense in the likes that Pittsburgh fans haven’t seen since Troy Polamalu was roaming the field. T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and the rest of the Steelers will continue wreaking havoc on opponents in 2020.

With an improved defense, a healthy Roethlisberger and a bitter taste in their mouths from last season's results, we expect the Steelers to have a better year.

Pittsburgh Steelers Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6

Chance to make the playoffs? 75 percent.

1 - Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson of Baltimore Ravens in action during 2020 NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium

With NFL MVP Lamar Jackson at the helm, Baltimore is set for years to come. As he continues to improve, Baltimore’s passing attack should follow suit. With another year in the system, and the boost of developing talent on both sides of the field, the Ravens appear to be one of the best teams in the league once again.

Last year as a team, Baltimore set the NFL’s all-time record for most rushing yards in a 16 game season with 3,296 yards. After adding RB J.K. Dobbins in the second round of the draft, retaining Mark Ingram, and of course Lamar Jackson’s electric ability to run the ball, we wouldn’t expect too much of a drop-off in 2020.

Of course, now that teams understand how great the Ravens can be, you can bet opponents will be on high alert, as they try to contain Baltimore’s ground game. This will likely lead to Baltimore attempting to throw the ball downfield more going forward. Heading into just his 3rd NFL season, it will be interesting to see how Lamar Jackson’s deep ball improves as the Ravens look to go even further than last year's team.

We don’t think the league will be able to suddenly stop Baltimore’s offensive attack, and their defense is always great. Unless they are hit with major injuries, we like their chances to repeat as division champs.

Baltimore Ravens Regular Season Record Prediction: 11-5

Chance to make the playoffs? 80 percent.

Place your bets on your favorite AFC North Division teams

NFL betting is becoming more popular than ever, with NFL betting lines and NFL betting odds instantly available at your fingertips, people have more access to information than ever before.

Right away in Week 1, Cleveland travels to Baltimore to play the Ravens. Taking a look at NFL odds and NFL betting picks, many bettors are confident that Baltimore will come out of the gates with a bang, just as they did last year.

Will you be following along closely to the AFC North division race this year? There will be plenty of great betting opportunities available, here’s to hoping you get lucky with a few games this year as the NFL season rages on.

The first AFC North battle begins Sunday, September 13th at 12:00 PM Central Time, when the Cleveland Browns take on the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. The only question is, where will you be placing your bets?

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.