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Breaking Down the AFC North for the 2018 Season

NFL Betting: Breaking Down the AFC North for the 2018 Season

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

In last season's AFC North, the Steelers were the big dog with a 13-3 record. They again loom as a threat not only in the division, but the conference, as well. Baltimore somewhat quietly won 9 games last year and it's not hard to forecast an upswing on their behalf. The Bengals were perennial playoff contenders until the last few seasons and look for an upsurge this season. And while the Browns were 0-16, they had a very active offseason, to the point where some fancy them as a darkhorse postseason presence. Let's look at the pros and the cons of each AFC North team this season, followed by Loot's take if these teams will go over/under their 2018 projected season wins totals.

Baltimore Ravens (9-7 last season)
Pros:
Win totals going up each of last three years
Won 9 games with little to like last season
Five new wide receivers should help
Lamar Jackson an exciting rookie
Revamped offensive line
Two Pro Bowl linebackers in Mosley and Suggs
Secondary is rising and looks tremendous—Smith coming back at CB
Should have a more-varied offensive approach
Pressure on coaches
Schedule not too bad after 4 of 6 first games at home
Cons:
Getting older
Flacco was rough last year
3 years without playoffs
Quiet offseason in adding key pieces
Fan support waning last season
O-line appears dicey
Loot's Pick for O/U Wins: Over 8 at -145 odds. Eight or nine wins seems about right, but eight might be the low part of the range for a Baltimore team that seems to be hard to pin down for the upcoming season.

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Cincinnati Bengals (7-9 last season)
Pros:
Still formidable up-front on defense
AJ Green still one of the best when healthy
Dalton should be good again
Nothing went right last season and they still competed hard
Brought in Cordy Glenn to help O-line
Added top center in draft
Offense should be better
Could be better if guys like Eifert and John Ross stay on field
Improved run-game could open up pass
Mixon could be a big factor at RB
Top corners
Draft could help safety department
Cons:
Does Marvin Lewis still have it?
Best young talent seems injury-prone
Who can step up and help Green aerially?
Defense has only 14 takeaways last season and needs to rediscover its form
Didn't make a ton of offseason moves, as they look the same personnel-wise
Lost juice at back-up QB with McCarron out and Matt Barkley in
Tough schedule
Franchise seems a bit stagnant
Not able to withstand key injuries to top players
Loot's Pick for O/U Wins: Over 6.5 at -120 odds. They won 7 games last season with almost everything going wrong. I look for some better fortune this season and at least a 7-9 mark.

Cleveland Browns (0-16 last season)
Pros:
Added a lot of juice, Mayfield and Taylor at QB
Potentially juiced receiving crew with Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, and others
Exciting rookies in Chubb, Mayfield, and Denzel Ward
Added key pieces in Carlos Hyde, Mychal Kendricks, Greg Robinson, and others
Youngsters continue to develop
Exciting force on defense in Myles Garrett
QB play will get better
Heading in right direction
Solid across all areas
Defense strong and growing in strength
No obvious weaknesses despite recent woes
Cons:
1-31 SU last two seasons and 8-24 ATS—ouch!
Losing culture lingers
Turnover margin was a disaster last season, need a big turnaround
Is the coaching up-to-snuff?
Upswing has been predicted for years and doesn't happen
Need a lot of stars to line up right
Some tough spots on schedule, especially if division is really tough
Fate rests in the hands of a ton of youngsters
Loot's Pick for O/U Wins: Under 5.5 wins at +125. Over might be a fashionable pick, but 1-31 over two seasons speaks loudest. You'd hate to have a team improve by five wins and still not be able to cash a winner on the "over."

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3 last season)
Pros:
Best QB in the division and maybe the conference
Have the best talent at RB with Bell and WR with Brown
Urgency to thrive this season
Growing youngsters in players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and TJ Watt
Defense has rounded into fine shape
Schedule seems negotiable early
Accustomed to success with 8 playoff seasons in 11 years with Tomlin
Added useful pieces on defense in draft and free agency
Skill positions are tip-top
Should be better at safety, which suffered last season
Cons:
Revamped secondary needs to gel quickly
Sometimes they underachieve
Seem less in sum than their individual parts would suggest
Quiet offseason
Need other talent at WR to surface
Lack of depth on injury-prone offensive line
Schedule gets tough later, includes five night games
Loot's Pick for O/U Wins: Over 10.5 wins at +110 odds. Ten wins is easy to envision, but so is 11, 12, or even 13 wins. Make this bet for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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