Steelers, Bengals Closely Matched on Odds to Win AFC North Division

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Ben Roethlisberger got the young and often one-dimensional 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers to within one play of the AFC title game, sparking speculation about what might be possible for a more complete team.

The Steelers open as the +120 favorite on the AFC North champion board, with the Cincinnati Bengals of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green listed at +180. The Baltimore Ravens are listed at +300, while the Cleveland Browns are the longshot play at+2000.

For Pittsburgh, their season win total prop is 10.5, with a -130 moneyline for over and an even-money payout for under. Roethlisberger has a strong supporting cast with WR Antonio Brown, WR Markus Wheaton and RB Le’Veon Bell, who missed nearly all of 2015 due to a knee injury. The big unknown is their young defense, which expects incoming CB Artie Burns, SS Sean Davis and pass-rushing DT Javon Hargrave to be ready to contribute by Week 1.

The first point of reference with the Bengals is Dalton’s 0-5 playoff record, but they have a  -135 moneyline to top 9.5 wins, compared to +105 to finish under. The Bengals had a highly ranked offense in spite of Dalton missing a month due to a broken thumb. They also have added another playmaker to their front seven by signing OLB Karlos Dansby away from the Arizona Cardinals.

The Ravens’ over/under is 8.5 wins, with under favored at -140 and over potentially paying +110. Injuries and related attrition contributed to last season’s 5-11 record. Baltimore is breaking in rookie LT Ronnie Stanley to protect the blind side of QB Joe Flacco, but the reinforcements in the passing phase are two castoffs, WR Mike Wallace and TE Ben Watson. Perennial Pro Bowl FS Eric Weddle has come aboard on a defense that needs to get younger and has rookie DE Bronson Kafusi and OLB Kamalei Correa waiting in the wings.

Cleveland’s over/under is 4.5 wins, with over listed at -125 while under is at -105. Converted baseball executive Paul DePodesta is overhauling the organization and it will take time for that to show up in the on-field results. The Browns are going with reclamation project Robert Griffin III at quarterback, and he will have some deep threats, including WR Josh Gordon (who can play starting in Week 5 after being suspended all of 2015 for violating the NFL substance abuse policy). Cleveland has nowhere to go but up under re-acquired defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who had the league’s ninth-ranked D with the 2013 Browns.

 

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