NFL Analysis

AFC North Over/Under Betting Predictions

AFC North Over/Under Betting Predictions

Following the NFL schedule release, fans and analysts often try to predict which games will be won and lost by each team. Another key aspect of the schedule release involves sportsbooks setting the predicted number of games any given team should win, using the book’s models. In this series, each of the eight NFL divisions will be previewed on a team-by-team basis. The win total projections below have been taken from Caesars Sportsbook, via ESPN.

The fifth division that will be assessed is the AFC North. This group of teams features the 2021 AFC Champions and Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, it was one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, as just two games separated the first and last place teams. Every team’s projected starting quarterback is 27-years-old or younger, and each head coach has garnered a reputation of being among the top in the league.

Previous divisions in the series:

NFC North Over/Under Betting Predictions

NFC West Over/Under Betting Predictions

NFC South Over/Under Betting Predictions

NFC East Over/Under Betting Predictions

Cincinnati Bengals

Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 9.5 wins

2021 Record: 10-7

The Cincinnati Bengals exceeded expectations in 2021, rebuilding from the team with the worst record in 2019 to AFC Champions this past season. Although the team began the year with a 5-2 record, they didn’t appear as a true contender until late into the season; just one of these five early wins came against a team who finished with a winning record. Their incredible turnaround in such a short time has been nothing short of remarkable.

One deficiency in Cincinnati last season was their offensive line, allowing the second-most sacks in the regular season, per PFF. The Bengals’ management chose to attack this inadequacy, resulting in a near overhaul of the unit. Left tackle Jonah Williams remains the lone projected starter from last season, and although left guard Jackson Carman was on the roster in 2021, he was not the full-year starter. To the right of Carman will be Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’el Collins, all of which are newcomers for the upcoming season. This is likely to present an offseason project of building chemistry, but the offensive line has seen an unequivocal increase in talent.

Outside of bolstering the offensive line, the Bengals added depth in their secondary through the NFL Draft. Daxton Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt are players who may not start from the get-go, but each should have the chance to contribute as the team attempts to defend the AFC title. The only position with a clear loss is tight end, as C.J. Uzomah signed with the New York Jets.

Matching their 2021 record appears to be an attainable goal for Cincinnati as the team seems to have found its identity late last season. Reaching only single-digit wins for a team that fell just minutes short of winning Super Bowl LVI would be a vast underachievement, and this win projection looks to be low considering the experience the Bengals now have.

Prediction: Over 9.5 wins

Pittsburgh Steelers

Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 7.5 wins

2021 Record: 9-7-1

The Steelers had a resilient 2021 season, overcoming a 1-3 start to ultimately qualify for the postseason. Despite needing some Week 18 fortune to earn seventh place in the AFC, the team rallied around now-retired quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The team will be without the future Hall of Fame signal-caller in 2022, leaving the starting gig open. Newcomer Mitchell Trubisky will compete with rookie Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph for the spot under center, a competition that hasn’t existed in Pittsburgh since Bill Cowher was the head coach. Whoever Mike Tomlin opts to name the starting QB, this player won’t rank among the top-20 at his position, at least to begin the year.

After losing Juju Smith-Schuster this offseason, the team was able to draft George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, two weapons for the quarterback-to-be-named. Two other offensive players new to Pittsburgh are Kevin Dotson and Mason Cole. These interior offensive linemen will be tasked with strengthening the unit, one that allowed defenders past them the third-most last year. It may take some time to gel, but having a stronger Najee Harris will help cover some miscommunications.

The Pittsburgh defense has retained great defensive players, such as Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, but the talent this unit must face each week is fierce. Playing in the AFC North poses many threats, as the other three teams all have top-ten quarterbacks. Additionally, each of the opposing teams have a borderline top-five skill-position player at their respective position, seen in Browns’ Nick Chubb, Ravens’ Mark Andrews, and Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase. None of the division games will be a breeze, and eight of their 11 non-divisional matchups finished 2021 with a winning record.

Prediction: Under 7.5 wins

Cleveland Browns

Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 9.5 wins

2021 Record: 8-9

One of the most newsworthy stories from the offseason was the trade of Deshaun Watson from the Texans to the Browns. Watson also was given a fully-guaranteed contract extension worth $230 million, one that The 33rd Team’s Joe Banner touched upon in March. Although the Browns have a more talented team on paper with him under center, the game isn’t played as such, and there may be further consequences of acquiring Watson. Chatter about a looming suspension continues, and current backup Baker Mayfield is seeking a trade with no plans to return to Cleveland’s facility.

The Browns also acquired receiver Amari Cooper, becoming the clear WR1 on the team. With his addition, the entire offense looks to be among the best in the league. The running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is one of the best in the NFL, and the starting offensive linemen were all on the roster last season. Allowing the second-fewest quarterback hits in 2021, this is a strength of the team.

The defense also has a handful of top-tier talents, including a pass-rushing duo of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Their pair of young cornerbacks, Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II, are excellent as well, helping to lead this unit.

However, no matter how great the team appears to be in June, games aren’t played until September. If Deshaun Watson is suspended for half of the year, or even the full 2022 season, this will cap Cleveland’s potential significantly. Double-digit wins isn’t an unattainable number, but this has only been done by the Browns once since 2008, and this team has the largest question mark in the NFL at the most important position.

Prediction: Under 9.5 wins

Baltimore Ravens

Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 9.5 wins

2021 Record: 8-9

The Ravens underperformed by most standards in 2021, finishing under .500 for the first time since 2015. This looks to be more of a fluke than a legitimate concern as J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards missed the entire year due to injury. Former MVP Lamar Jackson also did the play the full season, hindering the offensive capabilities in Baltimore.

The wide receiver position will be different in 2022 without Jackson’s former top receiver: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Dealt during this year’s NFL Draft, the Ravens now turn to 2021 first-round selection Rashod Bateman as their WR1 in an increased role. With free agents such as Julio Jones, Will Fuller V, Odell Beckham Jr., T.Y. Hilton, and more still unsigned, Baltimore could choose to bring in veteran talent to the position room. Even if the Ravens opt not to add another receiver, the feature pass-catcher will be Mark Andrews.

The Baltimore secondary should be improved in 2022 with the return of Marcus Peters, the signing of Marcus Williams and Kyle Fuller, and the drafting of Kyle Hamilton. Expanding upon the draft, the Ravens are thought to have a top-three class from April, and some of their selections should make an impact this season. Over half of Baltimore’s seasons under John Harbaugh have surpassed ten wins, and the team will look to have a resurgent campaign in the upcoming year.

Prediction: Over 9.5 wins