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AFC North Preview

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AFC East · AFC South · AFC North · AFC West
The AFC North showcases two of the last three conference champions (Steelers 2010 and Ravens 2012). Baltimore had plenty of offseason departures to key positions, but the Ravens are seeking their sixth consecutive playoff appearance in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco regime. The second-longest postseason streak in the division surprisingly goes to the Bengals, who qualified for the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

In spite of winning the Super Bowl, Baltimore was barely an above-average ATS squad last season (10-9-1), which included four straight covers in the playoffs. The Ravens put together a 2-4 ATS mark as a home favorite in the regular season, but hit the 'over' in six of eight home contests. Baltimore battles three reigning division champs in the first six weeks (Denver, Houston, Green Bay) of this season, while the final three games of the campaign will be major tests at Detroit, hosting New England, and traveling to Cincinnati.

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The Bengals overcame a 3-5 start to win seven of their final eight regular season games last season to finish 10-6. Cincinnati covered in nine of their 10 victories, with the lone non-cover coming as a 'push' against Cleveland in a seven-point win in Week 2. Marvin Lewis' club came through in the road underdog role four of six times, including outright victories at Washington, Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh.

The Steelers struggled last season due to key injuries as the team failed to qualify for the playoffs for just the second time in the last six years. Pittsburgh faltered from an ATS standpoint (6-9-1), which included a dreadful 1-4 ATS record in the role of a road favorite. To make matters worse, the Steelers lost all four games straight-up, including defeats at Oakland, Cleveland, and Tennessee. Mike Tomlin's squad will be tested early with road trips to Cincinnati and Minnesota, while hosting Chicago in Week 3.

The Browns continue to sit at the bottom of the division, finishing in last place of the AFC North for five straight seasons. Cleveland was a coin-toss proposition in 2012 by posting a 7-7-2 ATS record, which included a strong 4-2 ATS mark in the role of a home underdog. Four of Cleveland's first six games are at home, as the Browns host three non-playoff teams in this span by taking on the Dolphins (Week 1), Bills (Week 5), Lions (Week 6).

September Games to Watch:

Baltimore at Denver - Week 1: The highly-anticipated rematch of last season's epic double-overtime victory by the Ravens in the AFC Divisional Playoffs kicks off the season. The Ravens have covered six of their last nine games as a road underdog since 2011, while Baltimore has won three of the past four meetings with Denver.

Cincinnati at Chicago - Week 1: The Bengals will be tested out of the gate with an interconference matchup at Soldier Field. Cincinnati is 5-1 the previous six games at NFC competition, including four straight victories. The last time these teams hooked up in Cincinnati in 2009, the Bengals blew out the Bears as short home favorites, 45-10.

Miami at Cleveland - Week 1: Following the early preseason success of the Browns, Rob Chudzinski's club is playing with confidence as the season opener looms ahead. The Browns are currently listed as a home underdog against the re-tooled Dolphins, as Cleveland is 4-0 the last four meetings with Miami since 2005.

Pittsburgh at Minnesota - Week 4: The Steelers head into the bye week following this contest, a stretch of four road contests in six weeks. Pittsburgh's road struggles were documented earlier, but the Steelers have won six of their last eight games overall against NFC foes.

2013 Win-Loss Projections
Team 2012 Record 2013 Win Total (LVH) Predicted Over/Under
Baltimore 10-6 8 ½ OVER
Cincinnati 10-6 8 ½ UNDER
Pittsburgh 8-8 9 UNDER
Cleveland 5-11 6 UNDER


Week 1 Best Bets (courtesy of LVH Hotel and Casino):

-- Bengals +3 ½ at Bears
-- Steelers -6 ½ vs. Titans
-- Dolphins -1 ½ at Browns
-- Ravens +8 ½ at Broncos (PASS)

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.



  
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