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2020 NFL AFC North Predictions

 

AFC North Betting Odds and Forecast

The Baltimore Ravens come into 2020 at the top of the heap in the AFC North division, as their 14-2 straight up (SU) campaign in 2019 ended sourly with a bad home loss as big home favorites. The Ravens quarterback did bring home some hardware through as Lamar Jackson was the league MVP, and now Baltimore fans are hoping Jackson and his teams follows the same trajectory as Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs; win the MVP one year, the Super Bowl the next.

Everyone else in the AFC North is looking for better results in 2020 as well, and the degrees to which they vary is quite large. Cincinnati is coming out of the league basement this year, with their new franchise QB Joe Burrow in tow and ready to make some noise at the next level.


The Cleveland Browns failed to live up to high expectations last season but bettors could be leaning to a rebound season in 2020. (AP)

Cleveland is looking to keep any upward momentum they may have in regards to getting back in the playoff picture for the first time in forever, while Pittsburgh wants to get back in the same image and potentially go on one more magical run with Big Ben.

It will be an interesting year across the board in the AFC North, so let's see if we can make some sense of it from a betting standpoint on the AFC betting market.

2020 AFC North Title Odds

  • Baltimore (-200)
  • Pittsburgh (+350)
  • Cleveland (+500)
  • Cincinnati (+2000)

Tough not to like Baltimore here with the reigning MVP they've got at QB and the talent they've got everywhere else. The Ravens also never have to worry about playing consecutive division games as they are spread out quite nicely, and as long as Jackson stays healthy and plays a full slate, Baltimore should repeat as division champs. It's just a matter of how firmly you believe that will be the case and whether or not you want to tie up units at a -200 price tag for it.

Cincinnati isn't likely to go from worst to first in Burrow's rookie campaign, and Pittsburgh has the look and feel of a team sliding further away from a division title then they are getting back to one. Which leaves the Cleveland Browns as the one team in the AFC North where value players might want to take bite at in division prices.

It's not like Cleveland doesn't have the names, at least on paper, to be able to give Baltimore all that they can handle for the division, it's just a matter of living up to the projected potential and not slipping up in games Cleveland should able to handle. A +500 price tag on believing that will be the case for the Browns in 2020 may be worth a flyer should things not go according to plan for the Ravens.

2020 AFC Championship Odds

  • Baltimore (+333)
  • Pittsburgh (+1400)
  • Cleveland (+1600)
  • Cincinnati (+5000)

You can write off the Bengals from any legitimate conversation here, but the other three teams all have arguments that can be made.

Pittsburgh's case to run through the AFC is probably the toughest to make, but they could find a path where they are division winners and would maybe only need to win one playoff road game. But the Steelers are a team that might be better to fade overall, especially at these prices.

Cleveland's case relies on them living up and through that perceived potential, but there is not a lot of playoff minutes on that roster and asking them to run through the entire playoff gauntlet first try is a big ask.

Which brings us to Baltimore and this is the spot where those high on the Ravens have to be more excited about futures potential. The Ravens are priced in what looks to be a two-horse race between themselves and Kansas City, and Baltimore never got a shot to go head-to-head with the Chiefs with everything on the line. Again, should Jackson get hurt and miss significant time, backing Baltimore here is a future that could go sideways rather quickly, but you could also say that about most teams in this league as it is.

2020 Super Bowl 55 Odds

  • Baltimore (+700)
  • Pittsburgh (+2800)
  • Cleveland (+3300)
  • Cincinnati (+10000)

Another future spot to only really look at Baltimore, and +700 does sit as the 2nd best odds in the entire NFL to lift the Lombardi Trophy – Kansas City is best at +600. So it's up to the bettor on whether or not they believe in the Ravens continuing on from last year and taking that next step, or if health concerns and even performance concerns, would have some rather waiting to make sure Baltimore's got a nice path to win it all.

The latter seems to make a lot of sense as the price won't be that much worse given that you'll know Baltimore's already playoff bound, and a 14-2 season is extremely tough to duplicate. Baltimore may sneak in as a wildcard and need a great January run to get this job done. In that scenario there is definitely no harm in waiting.

2020 AFC North Win Totals Odds

  • Baltimore 11
  • Pittsburgh 8.5
  • Cleveland 8
  • Cincinnati 6

Plenty overall here for bettors to sink their teeth into the NFL Season Win Totals Odds, especially when you think about the fact that to cash an 'over' ticket with the Bengals at this price, Cincinnati will need to win five more games then they did a year ago. Is that really a legitimate expectation, even with a last place schedule?

Baltimore is still juiced 'over' at the flat “11” as an 11-5 or 12-4 season seems to be the consensus expectation for Baltimore's slight natural regression but remain one of the best teams in the league. Hard to go against that line of thought, but if 11.5 starts to pop up, then an 'under' starts to look like an option.

Cleveland and Pittsburgh have their own unique challenges to deal with at those numbers too. The 'over' is the favorite for the Browns and that means you need to see the Browns have their first winning season since 2007. Let that sink in for a moment.

2020 AFC North Playoff Props

Baltimore: Yes (-715) or No (+490)
Pittsburgh: Yes (-121) or No (+100)
Cleveland: Yes (+137) or No (-167)
Cincinnati: Yes (+550) or No (-835)

In terms of bettable options here, it's all about where you stand on the prospects of the Steelers and Browns for 2020 in what will likely be a battle for 2nd place in the AFC North. There isn't a crazy amount of depth in the other divisions in the AFC, so two teams from the North could easily find their way to playing football in January. It's whether or not a bettor believes that's more likely to be the Browns or the Steelers in the NFL Playoff Prop Odds.

2020 AFC North MVP Contenders

Baltimore QB: Lamar Jackson (+600)
Cleveland QB: Baker Mayfield (+3300)
Pittsburgh QB: Ben Roethlisberger (+5000)
Pittsburgh LB: TJ Watt (+10000)
Cleveland WR: Odell Beckham Jr (+15000)
Cleveland RB: Nick Chubb (+15000)
Cincinnati QB: Joe Burrow (+15000)
Cincinnati RB: Joe Mixon (+20000)
Pittsburgh RB: James Conner (+25000)
Baltimore RB: Mark Ingram (+25000)

QB - Quarterback, RB - Running Back, WR - Wide Receiver, LB - Linebacker

There are a lot of interesting names in that list, and it is interesting to see that the backfield of by far and away the best team in the division book ends the odds board.

The reigning MVP leads the way, but to bet Lamar Jackson to repeat is awfully tough. For one, repeat MVP's rarely happen – Peyton Manning's the only one to do it this century in 2003-04 and 2008-09 – and it's not like the price is one you can be confident you are getting the best bang for your buck. Every other team has a full year of tape on Jackson – at his best – to refer back to in tape study as well. So while Jackson is easily the most likely to win this award, backing him to repeat as MVP is a tough wager to confirm.

Finally, the most interesting name and price in the NFL MVP Futures Odds betting market might be Baker Mayfield. He's priced much better then say, Ben Roethlisberger, and if Cleveland is going to find that first winning season in more then a decade, Mayfield is going to have to make big strides forward with his play. Two of his play-making weapons are just down this MVP list with Beckham and Chubb mentioned here as well, so it's not like he won't have help.

2020 AFC East ROY Contenders

Offense

Cincinnati QB: Joe Burrow (+225)
Baltimore RB: JK Dobbins (+1600)
Pittsburgh TE: Chase Claypool (+5000)
Cincinnati WR: Tee Higgins (+6600)
Pittsburgh RB: Anthony McFarland (+10000)
Cleveland WR: Donovan Peoples-Jones (+10000)

QB - Quarterback, RB - Running Back, WR - Wide Receiver, TE - Tight End

Defense

Baltimore LB: Patrick Queen (+900)
Cleveland S: Grant Delpit (+3300)
Cincinnati LB: Akeem Davis-Gaither (+6600)
Baltimore LB: Malik Harrison (+10000)
Cincinnati LB: Logan Wilson (+10000)

S - Safety, LB - Linebacker

When a #1 overall pick resides in your division, there is a good chance they'll be among the names favored to win their rookie of the year award and that's exactly what we've got here with Bengals QB Joe Burrow. He would be where to start and end a Rookie of the Year Futures search at least on offense. Can't imagine any of those other names having more of an impact on their team then Burrow could, especially Tee Higgins, who's going to get the bulk of his success from Burrow's hand anyways.

Defensively, it's always going to be about having strong linebacking corps in this division and it's that position the leads the way for selections here. Queen is expected to make significant contributions to a Baltimore team that's expected to be a winner so that's always a plus for award mentions, a big reason why he's the leader of this group.

2020 AFC North Predictions

Best Bet/Value on AFC North Division Winner

Best Value: Cleveland Browns (+500)

The Browns are a team I do believe has much more upward trajectory in overall growth then what Pittsburgh currently does, and if the Browns reach that potential this year and get some help with say some bad luck in Baltimore with injuries and such, then this 5/1 price on Cleveland will seem a touch off.

It's still not a bet that's likely to win, as barring injury there is plenty to like about Baltimore repeating as champs in the AFC North. It's not the best price to tie up a unit or two for many months, but if that's not a problem then it's a wager that should cash. Baltimore wins this division unless some unfortunate things derail their season to where a team like Cleveland takes advantage.

Best Bet/Value on AFC Championship Winner

Best Bet: Baltimore (+333)

This is where the futures on Baltimore in 2020 get a lot more interesting and approachable. It really could be a year where it comes down to them and the Chiefs for a Super Bowl berth, as both squads to appear to be a level or two above their other competition in the AFC. If that turns out to be the case, taking my chances with Baltimore to come out ahead in that battle at this price is well worth it.

Best Bet/Value for Super Bowl 55 Winner

Best Value: Baltimore Ravens (+700)

Another future where the Ravens are the only legitimate option, and one that should be taken if you are a believer in Baltimore this year. The Ravens have all the pieces in place to be that team that goes the distance in 2020, and +700 is a fair market price.

Best Bets/Value for AFC East Season Win Totals

Best Over: Cleveland Over 8 wins

I've hinted at it throughout the piece that I am one to believe that Cleveland is the franchise (outside of Baltimore) in the AFC North that shows the most immediate promise in terms of upswing and improved results go. Cleveland ate a full serving of humble pie last season after a summer of overhyping themselves beyond belief. This season things have been a lot quieter in Cleveland and that's probably for the best. They get that first winning season in forever this year.

Best Under: Pittsburgh Under 8.5 wins

Along with the Cleveland 'over' on their season win total, this is easily my favorite future wager to make on any of these AFC North options, as the Steelers are far from a team to really believe in. Roethlisberger is far from reliable at this age – in both staying healthy and on-field production – and this team is extremely young at nearly all the playmaking positions.

That's great for the future of the Steelers, but in comes with many growing pains immediately, the most common of which can be inconsistencies. You can't be inconsistent and win consistently in this division on a year in, year out basis, and another .500 or worse season is in their immediate future.

Best Bets/Value for Yes/No in the 2020 NFL Playoffs

Best Bet: Pittsburgh “No”

This future prop was always going to be between Pittsburgh “no” and Cleveland “yes” for me, and a lot can go wrong for a team over the course of a NFL season and that's ultimately the approach I sided with here. Cleveland still would need a lot to go right for them to be postseason bound, whereas Pittsburgh might have plenty go right for them and still not be good enough to make it in.

The Steelers are just one of those teams I'm very interesting in fading in 2020 and this fits right into that methodology.

Best Bets/Value for Individual Awards

  • Best Bet MVP: Baker Mayfield (+3300)
  • Best Bet OROY: Joe Burrow (+225)
  • Best Bet DROY: Patrick Queen (+900)

Burrow's probably the only one of these three names with a real shot at winning the respective award, and he'd be the one I'd concentrate the most units allowed to this group of wagers on the Cincinnati rookie QB.

Everyone on defense seems to be fighting a little too much uphill against Chase Young until we start to see tackles made on the field, and even with the Browns taking that next step to a winning/playoff season, by no means that that come close to guaranteeing Mayfield is even in the MVP conversation.

Burrow's the best bet, and probably the only bet to make for individual award winners coming from the AFC North.

Analysis provided by VI Expert Matt Blunt - Odds & Betting Markets Subject to Change

  
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