The Pittsburgh Steelers are a huge -375 favorite in the odds to win the AFC North division this 2018 season. Pitt returns a dynamic offense along with a Top 5 ranked defense. Should the Steelers be that big of a favorite, though? What’s the smart play to win the AFC North? Is there really a longshot that could beat the other 3 AFC North teams?
The Steelers are favorites for a reason. Pittsburgh’s offense remains one of the most dynamic in the NFL. Last season, the Steelers’ offense averaged 378 yards per game. That ranked third in the league. QB Ben Roethlisberger averaged 273.8 passing yards per. Pitt scored 25.4 points per.
But, although the defense did rank in the Top 5 in yards per game, 306.9, it yielded 45 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Pitt’s 42 to 45 AFC Divisional Playoff loss. Pittsburgh hasn’t done much to improve it’s defense.
If the Steelers’ D doesn’t come together, especially without linebacker Ryan Shazier, Pitt could be vulnerable this season.
Smart: Cincinnati Bengals
2018 AFC North Odds: +750
What’s wrong with the Cincinnati Bengals? The biggest problem Cincinnati had last season was with their offensive line. They had lost some strong offensive line players after the 2016 NFL Season. The players they used to rebuild the line couldn’t get it together.
With a new offensive line this season, Cincinnati should unleash RB Joe Mixon. Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green will again provide one of the top QB/WR combinations in football.
The real reason to be bullish on the Bengals, though, is because the defense should be healthy enough to stop the run. If that happens, Cincinnati could win the AFC North.
Longshot: Cleveland Browns
2018 AFC North Odds: +900
No team went through as many changes this offseason as the Cleveland Browns. The biggest change is at quarterback and running back where the Browns shed the terrible signal-callers they had last season for steady Tyrod Taylor. Taylor will keep the QB seat warm until rookie Baker Mayfield is ready to start.
Cleveland also signed very good running back Carlos Hyde. What’s awesome is that Hyde is likely to back up rookie Nick Chubb. Chubb should immediately pay dividends. He’s got Todd Gurley type skills. As far as the wide receiver position is concerned, it doesn’t get better than Jarvis Landry. The former Miami WR has caught more passes in his first four seasons than any wide receiver in history.
Cleveland’s defense could take a huge leap forward after they drafted cornerback Denzel Ward. Sounds crazy, but the Browns have a shot at winning the AFC North.