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2017 AFC North Predictions and Picks

AFC North Predictions and Picks

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

The AFC North features another team that is an odds-on favorite to win the division in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last season, the Steelers didn't have a ton of things go their way and were still able to win the division at 11-5. They would eventually lose to the Super Bowl champion Patriots in the AFC Title game. More is expected this season, hence their odds not being all that tasty, despite two legitimate contenders who could jump up this season with a big performance.

Separated by just a dime on the money line are the Baltimore Ravens at +280 and the Cincinnati Bengals at +290. The Ravens were 8-8 last season with a lot of close games in the mix. With some key moves and some better breaks, they could easily find themselves in the division race. Cincinnati ended a run of five straight playoff appearances with a rough 6-9-1 campaign and look to get back to the postseason this season. The lowly Browns are coming off a terrible 1-15 season, but could finally see some things go right and for those willing to take a gamble—they're going off at a robust +3300.

Let's take a look at the odds to win the 2017 AFC North, followed by our breakdowns and picks.

Odds to Win the AFC North in 2017
Pittsburgh Steelers -110
Baltimore Ravens +280
Cincinnati Bengals +290
Cleveland Browns +3300

A Word About Odds: The Steelers are -110 to win the AFC North division in 2017. To win $100 on the Steelers, you would need to bet $110. With the other teams, they are all underdogs to win the division, represented by a plus-sign. The number you see next to the plus-sign is how much you would win if you bet $100. A bet of a hundred bucks would yield $280 on the Ravens and $290 on the Bengals, while the same amount wagered would fetch $3300 if the Browns won. And the $100 reference is just to make it easy to understand. You can bet any amount and the odds would just break down mathematically.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-110): The Steelers are understandably favorites to win the division. And their overall potential makes them a better than even-money favorite to do so. Still, one can understand the hesitancy of giving a full-fledged endorsement. While it's true that they have it in them to be the most-explosive offense in the league and maybe even the conference's best team, there seems to be a separation somewhere. Some guys just don't deliver regularly and they never seem more than a key injury or two from the wheels coming off. Still, it's not hard to project what will happen if a few things click better this regular season for the Steelers in the personnel front. They added even more power at receiver with free agent Justin Hardy and draft pick JuJu Smith-Schuster, while a few more key moves could get the Steelers closer to realizing their true potential.

Baltimore Ravens (+280): It was hard to not notice how the Ravens season would have looked a lot different if they caught a couple more late-game breaks. They were streaky and missed the postseason for the second straight season—the first time that had happened in over a decade. They lost Steve Smith, Sr. to retirement, but added some power, as well. The draft looks like they are once again focused on forming a typical top Ravens defense, adding CB Marlon Humphrey in the first round, along with LB Tyus Bowser, DT Chris Wormley, and LB Tim Williams. In free agency, they got S Tony Jefferson and if those defensive moves pay off and someone like RB Danny Woodhead delivers, the Ravens could be in the mix.

Cincinnati Bengals (+290): Those ready to shovel dirt on the Bengals after a 6-9-1 season last year might be doing so prematurely. Sure, they had their window to make noise, failing to win a playoff game in five straight postseason appearances. Maybe their gravy-period has ended. But a look at their 2016 season shows a lot of injuries played into that and some better health across their roster could play a big role in turning things around in '17. Their defense took a step back in '16, but again, injuries were a big factor. On offense, they need a healthy Andy Dalton and AJ Green, but added burner WR John Ross in the draft, along with a guy who could become the back they've needed in talented Joe Mixon. The defense gets a boost with the addition of LB Kevin Minter. They're definitely worth keeping an eye on and could see things go more their way this season.

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Cleveland Browns (+3300): On one hand, we like the direction the Browns are headed. Hue Jackson is a good football man and the organization is in many ways doing the right things to get the overturned Browns off their backs. Still, a 4-28 record in the past two seasons is the bottom-line and a scenario where they bridge the gap between themselves and the rest of the division seems hard to envision. Help is on the way after some ragged QB play the past several seasons, with Brock Osweiler and rookie DeShone Kizer now in the mix. They had three first-round picks, selecting DE Myles Garrett, S Jabrill Peppers, and TE David Nkoju. That could start paying off, as will the Browns focus on building the team from the inside-out, with some special emphasis on the lines of scrimmage. Big things this season could be asking too much, hence their extreme odds, but maybe we start seeing signs of better things to come in 2017.

Lootmeister's Pick to Win the AFC North Division in 2017: Pittsburgh Steelers

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