Oh my goodness, it’s August! Preseason NFL Football is upon us and in just a month will be kicking off the 2018 season for real. The Steelers are stepping into the 2018 season as the biggest favorites to win the AFC North since they drafted Big Ben back in 2004. Can Pittsburgh take the division again and make it four division wins out of the last five seasons?
The Pesky Pats
Before getting into the AFC North, let’s look at the Steelers biggest competition and possible AFC Conference Championship foes. The New England Patriots are Super Bowl favorites for the third season in a row. They have won the AFC East for nine straight seasons. And though I don’t believe there is enough competition coming from the Bills, the Dolphins, or the Jets to change that, they have some serious holes this year on the offensive line and big personnel shifts in the backfield and receiving corps. This could be a year that a strong defensive team puts them out of the playoffs.
As we mentioned above, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the odds-on favorites to win the AFC. At -300 or 1 to 3, the odds are pretty steep. Baltimore is the next closest back at 4.5 to 1. The Bengals are 10 to 1, and the Browns are as long as 12 to 1 at Top Betting Sites.
With the supreme court ruling in favor of each state making their own decisions regarding sports betting, and many states already on the cusp of legalizing along with Delaware and New Jersey already taking advantage of this new-found autonomy, we’ll be seeing a lot more betting statistics and data in the mainstream media. In a lot of ways, this is great for the standard sports fan, because Las Vegas and the online sportsbooks usually have a great beat on the outcomes. So let’s use some of this information to break down the AFC North a bit further.
The Cleveland Browns are a real shocker when we look at what Las Vegas thinks. They won exactly ZERO games last season but are expected to have a crazy immediate turnaround because Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield joined up? The Browns have been set win with an OVER/UNDER of 5.5 games. But the amazing thing here is they are -166 to go OVER and win 6. This seems all the more ridiculous to me given the fact that the Browns have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL in 2018.
The Browns get the privilege of hosting the Steelers on September 9th to start their season. And are expected to lose 5.5 Points. That said, the point-spread opened at 7, so the line is moving in their favor.
The season win total for Cincinnati seems a little more reasonable at OVER/UNDER 6.5. They won 7 games last year and are also heavily favored at -165 to break over the 6.5 games total for 7 wins on the season. Cincinnati opens their season against the Colts in Indianapolis. They started out as just 1.5-point underdogs, but now the Colts are favored by a field goal.
Baltimore is expected to be on the cusp of a .500 season with their OVER/UNDER set at 8 games. At -137 to go over the total, Vegas has at least a little faith that they will get the better of their schedule and win nine games. The Ravens get to kick off their season at home and have already moved up from being three-point favorites against the Buffalo Bills to 6-point favorites. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one close with Baltimore as touchdown favs.
What I find funny is that Pittsburgh is the third favorite to win the Super Bowl, just behind the Pats and Eagles, yet they are the only team in the AFC North that have the odds against them to go over their season win total. Despite being in the lower two-thirds in the strength of schedule for 2018 and going OVER for the last three years, Pittsburgh is -140 to under their total and a small dog at +116 to go over. This is great for us, because there is definitive value on the Steelers going over, and positive returns on the dollar if we choose to make a wager on the OVER.
The Steelers open the season against the Browns, and early lines had them as 7-point favorites, but it seems that bettors are buying into the Cleveland hype and the line has moved down to 5.5 points.