The AFC North is always one of the most intriguing divisions in the NFL. We do know the Browns will be one of the worst teams while the Ravens have to have better luck when it comes to injuries. Still, once again, this is going to be a race between the Steelers and Bengals.
Much like I did with the college football win totals, I will break down the schedules in terms of home and road opponents outside the division. In most situations, I'll give a split to each team in divisional play with them winning at home and losing on the road. Vegas is much more on the ball in the NFL compared to college football so the numbers are a lot sharper.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
(Over 8 wins -130, Under 8 wins +110)
Record Last Year: 5-11
Offense: Injuries derailed this side of the ball last year with Steve Smith and Joe Flacco among those who missed time. The two veterans are back although who knows how much Smith has left in the tank. Alongside him are Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken, neither of whom is considered a game-changer at WR. Ben Watson comes over to join a crowded TE group with Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams.
Defense: Terrell Suggs finally came off the PUP list and will lead the defense along with Timmy Jernigan. Cornerback Shareece Wright worries me although Ladarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are pretty solid in the secondary. Of note for Baltimore is a happy Justin Tucker, who got paid this offseason. He's a game-changer at kicker.
Schedule: Baltimore better get wins early because its final four games are at New England, home vs. Philadelphia then at the Steelers and the Bengals. The Ravens come off their Week 8 bye with four of five at home. A schedule oddity is that they play the Giants and Jets at MetLife Stadium in back-to-back weeks.
Prediction: Slight lean to the over. This is a better team than the five wins it finished with in 2015. The injuries were a huge issue, but I think this squad has another run left in it. The schedule sets up nicely for wins early.
(Over 10 wins +149, Under 10 wins -169)
Record Last Year: 12-4
Offense: Brandon LaFell comes over from New England to replace Marvin Jones as A.J. Green's sidekick, but the hand injury he is dealing with could limit his impact in the early going, if not the whole season. Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert's health will be important because he found the end zone often last year and was a valuable target in the red zone. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard form a solid RB duo although Hill has to improve on his yardage. As usual though, this group goes as Andy Dalton goes.
Defense: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the first three games of the season and that's a big loss. Still, for the most part the names are the same on this side of the ball. Fellow linebacker Karlos Dansby comes over from Cleveland after registering 108 tackles in 2015.
Schedule: Cincinnati has four of its first six on the road. After a Week 9 bye, the Bengals alternates home and road matchups. They play at the Cowboys and Patriots in Weeks 5 and 6.
Prediction: I like the under for Cincinnati. I'm not a Dalton fan and think defenses will stack the box to make him try and beat them. Eifert's health and LaFell's lack of talent will hurt the offense. I think that if you can get a better price on the under then you should take it.
(Over 5 wins -106, Under 5 wins -124)
Record Last Year: 3-13
Offense: Let's start off with the positives of WR Corey Coleman and RB Duke Johnson. That's two young pieces to build around with Coleman getting rave reviews out of training camp. Gary Barnidge had a great year in 2015 as well. The problems start at signal-caller where Robert Griffin III is trying to recapture what he was in his first season under center. If new head coach Hue Jackson can get Griffin back to his 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year form, then this team will surprise. Don't forget Josh Gordon could be a factor once again after sitting out the first four games.
Defense: This side of the ball could have a few issues. Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden is not what he used to be, but still probably is the best the Browns have. Tramon Williams and Justin Gilbert represent some decent depth, but can the front seven get some pressure to help the secondary out?
Schedule: Cleveland has five of its first seven on the road and the latest bye of any team this season (Week 13, with Tennessee). All eyes will be on our nation’s capital in Week 4 when RG3 returns to his old stomping grounds. The team does have five home games over a seven-week span in the second half of the season.
Prediction: I think the under is the play here. There's just not enough talent in Cleveland this season. At least those fans can still bask in the glow of the Cavaliers’ NBA championship.
(Over 10.5 wins -105, Under 10.5 wins -115)
Record Last Year: 10-6
Offense:Le’Veon Bell is suspended for the first three games, but last year DeAngelo Williams proved he could take over if need be. Martavis Bryant is out for the entire season, meaning Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates will have to pick up the slack. Jesse James gets the call at the tight end and he's not Heath Miller. Ben Roethlisberger should have another good year if he stays upright.
Defense: Pittsburgh continues to shuffle in some new talent on this side of the ball as the Steelers continue to try to get younger. I really like their linebacker corps with Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons, Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones. The corners could be better, but Mike Mitchell will help at safety. He's been a stabilizing force.
Schedule: The Steelers have a Week 8 bye and then five of their next seven are away from home. Pittsburgh gets the Patriots, Cowboys and Giants all at home while they play at the Colts and Bills.
Prediction: I think 10 wins sounds about right for the Steelers. Their defense concerns me although the offense should be able to score on anyone. Once Bell returns, that side of the ball should have no issues.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.