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Pittsburgh Steelers

2013 record: 8-8
Postseason: No playoffs
Off YPG: 337 (20th)
Def YPG: 337 (15th)
PPG scored: 23.7 (16th)
PPG allowed: 23.1 (13th)

2014 Total Win Analysis: LVH Total Win Opening Line – 8.5

The Steelers have finished 8-8 each of the last two seasons. They missed the playoffs each of those years after making the postseason in eight of their previous 11 years. Word is they expect their offensive line to be much improved this year under the guidance of Mike Munchak. They need a decent running game to take some of the burden off QB Roethlisberger. When Le'Veon Bell was healthy their running game was decent. Expect them to be better on the ground this season with Bell and new addition LeGarrette Blount. The defense picked up some speed in the draft and should be solid again. Pitt has a fairly weak strength of schedule with their opponents this year winning 46% of their games a year ago. Their road slate is quite favorable by travel standards as they leave the Eastern time zone only once this season. Not one of our favorite totals for sure as we could see this team going 8-8 or 9-7. With that said, with one of the better QB’s in the NFL and a fairly weak slate, we’d lean very slightly to OVER 8.5 here.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 9-7, 8-8
-- Ravens vs Steelers - 9 of the last 11 games have been decided by 3 or less
-- Ravens vs Steelers – Despite two defensive minded teams, the over is 18-9-1 the last 28 meetings
-- Since 2003, Pittsburgh has the 3rd best ATS home record in the NFL (52-41-2) covering 56% of the time.
-- Since 2000, the Steelers are 41-23-2 ATS as an underdog (64%).
-- Going back to 1981, Pittsburgh is 114-89 ATS (56%) the game following a SU loss.
-- Steelers have dominated AFC North rival Cincinnati. Pitt is 34-13 SU the last 47 meetings and 31-16 ATS.

Player & Team Notes

-- Pittsburgh is favored by 5 over Cleveland at home in Week 1.
-- The Steelers averaged only 3.5 yards per rush last season which was 4th worst in the NFL
-- The Steelers do not play a game west of the Mississippi this year and only ONE of their 16 games is outside of the Eastern time zone.
-- Steelers hired former Titans head coach and Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Mike Munchak as their OL coach.
-- Pittsburgh signed RB LeGarrette Blount to give them a HUGE 1-2 punch at the position. Blount will back up Le'Veon Bell and the two combined to weigh nearly 500 pounds!
-- Pitt has had a negative turnover ratio in 4 of the last 5 years.
-- 12 of Pittsburgh’s 16 games were decided by 7-points or more

Cincinnati Bengals

2013 record: 11-5
Postseason: Lost in Wild Card round
Off YPG: 368.4 (10th)
Def YPG: 305.5 (3rd)
PPG scored: 25.9 PPG (6th)
PPG allowed: 19.5 PPG (5th)

2014 Win Total Analysis: LVH Total Win Opening Line - 9

We would lean toward the UNDER for this one. Cincinnati rode a weak schedule (ranked 24th) - benefiting from a down year from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cleveland - to 11 wins, their most wins since 2005. Many had them tabbed as a dark horse Super Bowl team after finishing the regular season on a 5-1 streak, scoring 40 points in three of those six games. Instead, the Bengals bowed out early in a 17-point home loss to the Chargers in the Wild Card round. There weren't really any glaring personnel moves that would suggest that Cincinnati will be worse off than last year, but they've been "middling" for a while now and we don't see them taking that leap to the elite echelon of the NFL just yet. They have the 23rd toughest schedule this year, but that doesn't mean they have an easy slate. On top of games against Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cleveland; they have tough non-divisional road games against playoff teams from a year ago (New England, Indianapolis, New Orleans), two more tough roadies against teams that figure to be much improved from a year ago (Houston, Tampa Bay), and tough home matchups against Denver, Carolina, and Atlanta. It'll be extremely difficult for the Bengals to exceed nine wins against their schedule.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 10-5-1, 10-5-1
-- Cincinnati was the best ATS home team last year (8-1, 88.9%), covering all eight regular season home games and losing the playoff game.
-- Cincy is just 22-31-2 ATS (41.5%) as a favorite since 2007 - the fifth worst mark in the NFL over that span.
-- The Bengals are 12-6-1 ATS over Baltimore since 2004, including an impressive 7-2 ATS mark at home.
-- Contrary to the success against Baltimore, the Bengals are just 4-11 ATS in the last 15 meetings with Pittsburgh - just 2-5 ATS on the road and 2-6 ATS at home
-- Cincinnati has gone to the playoffs four of the past five years. They are 0-4 SU & ATS in those playoff appearances.
-- Recent history suggests a run on UNDERS for the 2014 Bengals. They finished 10-6-1 OVER in 2013, 11-6 UNDER in 2012, and 12-5 OVER in 2011.

Player & Team Notes

-- QB Andy Dalton threw for the most yards (4,296) and touchdowns (33) of his three year career, but also had the most interceptions (20) - the fifth highest total in the NFL last season.
-- Cincinnati had the 2nd highest Red Zone TD percentage in the NFL at 71.4% - behind only Denver (72.7%).
-- Cincinnati forced 31 turnovers last year and returned 6 of those for TD - tied for 2nd in the NFL in defensive touchdowns.
-- Cincinnati drafted bruising RB Jeremy Hill out of LSU in the 2nd round, likely spelling the end of Benjarvus Green-Ellis.
-- OC Jay Gruden left to become head coach of the Redskins and DC Mike Zimmer left to become head coach of the Vikings. Former RB coach Hue Jackson has been promoted to OC and former LB coach Paul Guenther has been promoted to DC
-- The Bengals only play two games west of the Mississippi (barely) in Houston and New Orleans - never having to travel out of eastern or central time zones.

Cleveland Browns

2013 record: (4-12)
Postseason: No playoffs
Off YPG: 339 (18th)
Def YPG: 332 (9th)
PPG scored: 19.2 (27th)
PPG allowed: 25.4 (23rd)

2014 Total Win Analysis: LVH Total Win Opening Line - 6.5

Diagnosing the Browns total wins is a bit difficult. They are going through yet another coaching change as Mike Pettine takes over for Rob Chudzinski, becoming their fifth head coach since 2005. They don't have a solid answer at quarterback at this moment as highly touted rookie Johnny Manziel & veteran Brian Hoyer fight for the starting position. Hoyer returns from a knee injury (5 TD & 3 INT before his injury last year) while Manziel tries to learn the playbook. Whoever wins that spot likely won't have top wideout from 2013, Josh Gordon, who led the league in receiving yards despite missing two games. Even without Gordon, there is a lot of talent on this roster. RB Ben Tate was acquired from the Texans via free agency, same with Karlos Dansby via Arizona, and Donte Whitner via San Francisco. Cleveland seemingly has talent and depth at every position besides WR at this point. The schedule shapes up nicely with non-divisional home games against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston, and Indianapolis. Their schedule ranks 26th in opponent winning percentage, giving them a seemingly weak slate for 2014. With a solid-but-not-overwhelming AFC North to play in; if they get solid QB play from either Manziel or Hoyer, we like the Browns' chances to exceed 6.5 wins this season.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record:  6-10, 9-7
-- 5-14-1 ATS as a home favorite since 2008 (25%) - 2nd worst in the NFL over that span
-- 15-23-2 ATS in non-division games since 2010 (39.5%) - 3rd worst mark in the NFL over that span
-- 12-17-1 ATS as a road underdog since 2010 (41.4%) - 3rd worst in the NFL over that span
-- 11-18-1 ATS (2-28 SU) in AFC North road games since 2004 (36%)
-- 10-5 UNDER last 15 games vs. AFC North squads
-- 9-1 UNDER vs. Baltimore last 10 games, averaging just 33.2 PPG

Player & Team Notes

-- Of three different starting quarterbacks in 2013, none had a completion percentage above 59.5%
-- Last year Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden ranked 30th and 34th, respectively, in QB rating among 37 qualified quarterbacks
-- Cleveland notched just four rushing touchdowns in 2013, the fewest in the NFL
-- Leading rusher, Willis McGahee, had just 377 rush yards (2.7 YPC) and two touchdowns
-- New RB Ben Tate had 771 rush yards (4.3 YPC) and 4 TD mostly in backup duty last season
-- Josh Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013, could miss the entire 2014 campaign with a suspension

Baltimore Ravens

2013 record: 8-8
Postseason: No playoffs
Off YPG: 307 (29th)
Def YPG: 335 (12th)
PPG scored: 20 (25th)
PPG allowed: 22 (11th)

2014 Total Win Analysis: LVH Total Win Opening Line – 8.5

We would lean toward the OVER in this one. QB Joe Flacco can’t possibly have another year like 2013 can he? He completed only 59% of his passes and threw 22 picks. Steve Smith should help on the outside. The Ravens have a relatively easy schedule ranking 28th in SOS with their opponents winning just 46% of their games last season. Coming off their Super Bowl winning season they struggled a bit last year to an 8-8 record. Many of their losses went to the wire with 5 of their 8 setbacks coming by a field goal or less. Baltimore has historically been one of the stronger NFL franchises winning more than 8 games in 8 of their last 11 seasons. Off a year in which they didn’t make the playoffs, we look for a bounce back from the Ravens and think they’ll get to 9 wins or better.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 7-7-2, 7-9
-- Ravens are 56-34-3 ATS as a HF since 2000 (62%)
-- Ravens vs Steelers - 9 of the last 11 games have been decided by 3 or less
-- Ravens vs Steelers – Despite two defensive minded teams, the over is 18-9-1 the last 28 meetings
-- Since 2003, the Ravens have the 2nd best home spread mark in the NFL at 51-40-1 (Seattle is 1st)
-- Ravens vs Browns 9 of the last 10 times these two teams have met they have gone UNDER the total. They have averaged 33.3 points during that span and not ONE game has gone over 42 points

Player & Team Notes

-- Joe Flacco’s QB Rating was just 73.1 last season ranking him 32nd among 37 qualifying QB’s.
-- Flacco averaged just 6.4 yards per pass thrown ranking 36th among qualifying QB’s, ahead of only TB’s Mike Glennon.
-- RB Ray Rice has had some serious legal issues in the off-season (battery) and might be looking at some type of suspension by the NFL.
-- The Ravens were dead last in the NFL averaging just 4.5 yards per play on offense. That was a full yard per play less than their average in 2012 (5.5).
-- Former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is the new offensive coordinator for Baltimore.
-- The Ravens added WR Steve Smith, formerly of the Panthers, in the off-season. 

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