Friday, 10 August 2018 18:09 EST
As of this writing, the first full week of NFL preseason games has been played, with each team getting at least one (fake) game in the books. NFLbets meanwhile continues our division-by-division look at the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” NFL futures offered at online sportsbooks.
Today, we’re considering the AFC North, which in 2018 features two teams easy enough to read, and two real toughies. Click on the below links to read NFLbets’ takes on these proposition bets for other divisions…
AFC East • NFC South • NFC West
No division has been so predictable in terms of preseasons odds at the sportsbook than the AFC North. The mundane order of Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Browns in the 20th century seems as preordained as it feels inevitable. Not that such a feeling is unjustified: The Browns have finished fourth in 13 of the last 16 seasons, and but for the grace of Cleveland go the Bengals, a team who last won a playoff game in 1990 against the Houston Oilers. The Baltimore Ravens have mostly stayed competitive (aside from the freakish Super Bowl-winning season of 2012) by dint of starting at 5-1 within the North and beating down the beatdogs of the AFC annually. Finally, the big bad Pittsburgh Steelers have had the league’s top halfback and top wide receiver for five years running now.
As with the AFC East, NFLbets believes radical change may shuffle this division someday soon, but it won’t be 2018. Bookmakers too expect more of the same from these four teams in the upcoming season. The lines in the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” prop bets are listed below.
||to win div. (oper)
||to win div. (current)
First reaction: The Steelers at an over/under of 10½ games is a line based purely on reputation and getting the (literally and figuratively0 massive subset of Steelers fans who are also NFL bettors. These bros, believing their guys are good for 12 or 13 wins at least, will certainly help keep this over/under nice and artificially high for the rest. Seeking out a sportsbook offering an over/under of 11 should be worth your time as well.
Those taking the over on the Steelers who are not blind fanboys/-girls are depending on continued dominance over the division’s Ohio teams (at four “guaranteed” wins, the 2018 Steelers would already be over 35% to the target.
The first half of the season certainly looks favorable to Pittsburgh: they'll be at Cleveland, vs the Kansas City Chiefs, at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, vs Baltimore, vs the Atlanta Falcons, at Cincinnati, bye, vs Cleveland. Now the Steelers backers has
delusions visions of 7-0 in this first half.
Except that Le’Veon Bell, offensive lynchpin/straw that stirs the drink in Pittsburgh, has notoriously gotten off to slow starts and brings the team down with him. Check out these stats:
• 2015, weeks 3-8, his only six games: 115.33 total yards per game, 3 TDs; Steelers record 3-3.
• 2016, weeks 4-10, after serving suspension: 115.33 total ypg, 2 TDs; Steelers 2-4.
• 2017, weeks 1-5: 102.6 total ypg, 3 TDs; Steelers 3-2.
• All other games played in 2016-17: 159.5 ypg, 16 TDs; Steelers 15-1.
So? “Great,” figures the Steelers fan, “so they lose a couple early on and steamroll in the second half, voila! 13-3 is easy.”
Except … just look at the second half schedule. What will have been a playground for Bell and the boys becomes a treacherous pit of doom: From week 9, it’s at Baltimore, vs the Carolina Panthers, at the Jacksonville Jaguars, at the Denver Broncos, vs the Los Angeles Chargers, at the Oakland Raiders, vs the New England Patriot and at the New Orleans Saints before closing out against Cincinnati.
We suppose the Steelers could win 11 against this schedule. IF Ben Roethlisberger plays the majority of the season. IF Bell and the entire team can win the games they should in the season’s first half. IF the injury bug doesn’t hit too hard … with this season, for this season, that’s too many if’s. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers to win under 10½ games.
NFLbets admits to still hating the Baltimore Ravens for taking our money in the “Over/Under Wins” futures bet last season – which brings up some good advice: Never bet on any team or game in which an emotional response is part of the decision. Sounds simple, but admiration, fear and/or loathing have ruined many millions of bets through the centuries.
We’ll probably be avoiding the Ravens altogether in these props, mainly because 8 wins seems just about right for this team. And after the preseason, NFL bettors can be as excited about Lamar Jackson as they want, but how quickly do you think the Ravens front office will put Joe Flacco and his franchise-sucking contract on the bench? Not very is the answer here, and that’s pretty good news because the Ravens will certainly be profitable to bet against game-to-game until Joe Flacco has utterly lost his teammates’ and/or coaching staff’s backing.
One of the easiest picks in the entire NFL is the Cincinnati Bengals future bet of over/under 6½ wins. Ask yourself the following questions:
• Is Marvin Lewis still coaching the team?
• Did the Bengals make any significant progress toward, likesay, improvement this past offseason?
• Who will the Bengals’ starting QB be?
So yeah. Take the Cincinnati Bengals to go under 6½ wins.
Finally, everyone’s liking the Cleveland Browns this offseason – everyone except the NFL bettors, that is. NFLbets calls this the Hard Knocks Effect. To wit, the following is the list of Hard Knocks-starring teams and the outcomes in the season following each team’s series.
• 2007 Kansas City Chiefs – 4-12
• 2008 Dallas Cowboys – 9-7
• 2009 Cincinnati Bengals – 10-6 won the AFC North
• 2010 New York Jets – 11-5 and a wild card spot
• 2012 Miami Dolphins – 7-9
• 2013 Cincinnati Bengals – 11-5 won the AFC North
• 2014 Atlanta Falcons – 6-10
• 2015 Houston Texans – 9-7 won the AFC South
• 2016 Los Angeles Rams – 4-12
• 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 5-11
• 2018 Cleveland Browns – ???
NFLbets realizes there’s no room in betting for superstition, and we believe there’s a reason behind this. Firstly, let’s all come to grips with the fact that REALITY SHOWS ARE NOT REALITY (unless you’re President of the United States, that is). The narrative on the Hard Knocks teams is always the same: This goofy bunch of characters may not win the Super Bowl, but they’ll improve on last year and therefore should you watch all their games on national TV.
At this point in the show’s run, the Hard Knocks producers have the schtick down cold, doing what the Hollywood/Burbank infotainment industry has always done: glamorize and aggrandize everything. So of course Jameis Winston and Mark Sanchez and Jeff Fisher come off as great leaders of men: the producers and directors have done their job. On top of this, you’ve got certain guys thinking a Hard Knocks series can motivate teammates (as in Winston or this year’s early rah-rah guy Jarvis Landry) or concentrating more on making their locker-room speeches camera-ready (i.e. Fisher). In short, don’t be fooled by the man behind the curtain (or camera).
Yet, dare we believe the 2018 Cleveland Browns might not … suck? Or that they might even be … good?
Starting at quarterback is either Tyrod Taylor, who helped get a team fighting its own management into the playoffs last year and is set to play with a massive chip on the shoulder or the no. 1 overall the Browns may actually have gotten right in Baker Mayfield. Carlos Hyde will share touches with Duke Johnson, who showed some true flashes of greatness in the second half of last season.
The aforementioned Jarvis Landry was this team’s biggest acquisition of any sort and, along with a second re-signing in Josh Gordon, automatically improves the WR core, which may add more star power, depending on whether Dez Bryant takes up the Cleveland challenge. Given Landry’s Hard Knocks attitude, this team is already leading the league in shoulder chips with or without Dez aboard.
We’re not sure if the signing of E.J. Gaines will turn the tide or if Mles Garrett can take another step (or two, or three steps) forward in 2018, but this Browns offense should score its share of points. We would tentatively advise taking the Cleveland Browns to win over 5½ games – they’ll certainly beat Cincinnati twice, for example – but might be more useful for betting the over in the season’s first half and plus the points in the second…
NFLbets’ best bets for AFC North betting:
• Cincinnati Beangals under 6½ wins; and
Pittsburgh Steelers to win division at -300 (preferably in a parlay).
NFLbets’ recommendations for AFC North betting:
• Pittsubrgh Steelers under 10½ wins; and
• Cleveland Browns to win over 5½ games.