At one point this offseason, the Cleveland Browns were the favorites to win the AFC North.
A lot has changed, even without a resolution to the Deshaun Watson mess. The Browns are looking at a long suspension for their new $230 million quarterback. Baker Mayfield was shipped off to the Carolina Panthers, and the Browns will pay $10.5 million of his salary just to be rid of him. Nobody would favor the Browns to win the AFC North with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. The odds at BetMGM have shifted.
There are two teams near the top of the AFC North odds. One has been a contender in the division for a long time. The other is a team on the rise, coming off a surprising run to the Super Bowl.
Who is favored to win AFC North?
Here are the odds to win the AFC North:
Baltimore Ravens +150
Cincinnati Bengals +185
Pittsburgh Steelers +900
Before we get to the two top teams, there is a case to be made for the other two.
The Browns might be in trouble if Watson gets a year-long suspension, but no decision has been made by the NFL. It's obviously a complicated issue. Nobody can predict what the NFL will do. If you believe Watson will play at least half of the season, and a talented roster can ground and pound its way to some wins while Cleveland waits, there's a reason the Browns were favored to win the division a few months ago.
The Steelers' odds are long for a franchise that always seems to be in the playoffs. Coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. Ben Roethlisberger is gone, but he hadn't been helping much dating back to late in the 2020 season. If you believe in the infrastructure of the Steelers, a 2021 playoff team, then 9-to-1 odds aren't that bad.
However, it does seem like the AFC North will be decided by a two-team race.
Ravens, Bengals battle for top spot
The Ravens had a hard-luck 2021 season. They had a ton of injuries and a bunch of close losses late in the season that kept them out of the playoffs. But those injured players should be back, Lamar Jackson is still an electrifying player, and coach John Harbaugh has had just two losing seasons since getting the job in 2008. Baltimore was longer than 2-to-1 odds earlier in the offseason but bettors have been taking them and those odds have gotten shorter. That's justified.
It's also OK if you believe in the Bengals. The Bengals got hot late and won the division last year. They dominated the Ravens in both meetings. There is probably some regression coming, but perhaps that will be offset by natural improvement from young stars like quarterback Joe Burrow and receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Perhaps the surge we saw late last season was a sign of things to come.
I prefer the stability of the Ravens, who can't possibly have such bad injury luck two seasons in a row. But even as training camps are about to start, there's still plenty of uncertainty in the AFC North.