Thursday, June 30, 2022

AFC North win totals: Bengals, Ravens, Browns all teetering toward double-digit victories

We are less than 100 days away from the start of the 2022 regular season. As we close in on the NFL opener between the Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills and teams continue through their offseason programs, this period gives us a good opportunity to dissect the recently released schedules for each club and try to see if there is any value on the win total market. 

Of course, it’s always risky placing a futures bet at this time of the year in regards to win totals — particularly if you’re hitting the Over — due to the risk of an injury to a key player throughout OTAs, minicamp, and training camp. If they go down in any of those sessions, you’re essentially sunk before you even got off the ground. Despite that, there is money to be made if you can avoid the injury bug. 

In this piece, we’ll specifically be looking at the AFC North teams, highlight their win total odds, and give our early leans. 

All NFL odds via Caesars Sportsbook. 

Cincinnati Bengals

Win total projection: 9.5 (Over -110, Under -110)

The Bengals are fresh off their most successful season in recent memory and made improvements during the offseason, but will have the stigma of being a Super Bowl runner-up heading into 2022. Historically, teams that have lost the Super Bowl the previous year have struggled to immediately bounce back. 

Not only will Cincinnati be trying to buck that trend, but they’ll be doing so with one of the more difficult schedules in the NFL. If you look at their opponent’s win percentage from last year, the Bengals have the third-hardest schedule in the league. If you look at it by their opponents’ projected win total for this year, Zac Taylor’s club has the seventh-hardest schedule. 

When you specifically look at the Bengals 2022 slate, they’ll need to stack up wins early because the back half of the schedule is daunting. Following the Week 10 bye, they are on the road for four of their next six games, which include trips to Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, and New England. Their home opponents over that stretch and to finish out the year include Kansas City, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Baltimore. Even with the Bengals having a budding superstar in Joe Burrow, each of those games could go either way. 

Still, this is a lean towards the Over given that there are likely seven wins baked into their schedule with games against the Jets, Dolphins, Saints, Falcons, Panthers, and two against Pittsburgh. If they can split with the rest of their division or find success through that treacherous second half of the schedule, they’ll be looking at double-digit wins. 

The pick: Over 9.5 (-110)

Pittsburgh Steelers

Win total projection: 7.5 (Over +105, Under -125)

It’s a new era in Pittsburgh following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, but I’m not sure the Steelers will have too difficult of a time as they transition under center. From what we saw from Big Ben in 2021, the team isn’t really trying to replace a future Hall of Fame quarterback, they are replacing one that had an 86.8 passer rating during his final season. While first-round pick Kenny Pickett or free-agent signee Mitchell Trubisky may be able to replicate that, the road in 2022 is pretty difficult for Pittsburgh. 

Five of their first eight games are on the road, which creates a tough task for Mike Tomlin’s club right out of the gate. Over those eight weeks, there are probably only two games where they’ll be favored: hosting the Patriots in Week 2 and hosting the Jets in Week 4. It’s possible that they could be favored against the Browns in Cleveland in Week 3, but that would depend on Deshaun Watson being suspended by the league. In the second half of the year, they’ll could be favored hosting the Saints in Week 10, and on the road against the Falcons (Week 13) and Panthers (Week 15). 

If you allot for each of those games as wins, you’re sitting at five victories and would need a trio of upsets elsewhere on the schedule. That’s certainly possible if the defense is lights out. It also doesn’t hurt that Pittsburgh will log the fewest travel miles this season in the league. With that in mind, there’s value in the Over at 7.5 given that Tomlin has never had an under .500 record during his tenure in Pittsburgh, but it won’t come easy. 

The pick: Over 7.5 (+105)

Cleveland Browns

Win total projection: 9.5 (Over -125, Under +105)

This feels like a stay away given the uncertain status of quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Browns did upgrade talent-wise when they acquired Watson and are set to move off of Baker Mayfield, but the former Texans‘ off-field troubles still leave him at risk of facing punishment by the NFL. If he’s suspended for any period, that could sink this win total prop with Jacoby Brissett serving as the backup in Cleveland. 

All things being equal, however, the Browns don’t have a remarkably difficult schedule in 2022. Out of the gate, they’ll face the Panthers, Jets, Steelers, and Falcons, which could set them up with a 4-0 record before facing stiffer opponents before the Week 9 bye. They also have road games against the Texans and Commanders, which should be winnable contests where they’re possibly even favored. 

So while there’s certainly a path for the Browns to scream over this number with Watson, his uncertain status has us staying away for now. If forced to make a pick, however, there’s value in the Under, especially if Watson is hit with a significant suspension.

The pick: Under 9.5 (+105)

Baltimore Ravens

Win total projection: 9.5 (Over -130, Under +110)

Baltimore was straight-up attacked by the injury bug in 2021. They had multiple starters suffer season-ending injuries before the campaign even started and those issues continued throughout the year, headlined by Lamar Jackson being limited to just 12 games. Now that they’ve had an offseason to recoup, the Ravens should return as one of the more notable threats in the AFC, and that last-place finish last year does give them an easier road in 2022. 

According to their opponents’ win total projections, Baltimore has the 11th easiest schedule next season and will long the second-fewest travel miles, which will help keep them fresh. 

By initial glance, there will likely be four road games where they are favored: at Jets (Week 1), at Giants (Week 6), at Saints (Week 9), and at Jaguars (Week 12). There are also a couple of gimme home games against inferior opponents: Panthers (Week 11) and Falcons (Week 16). That’s six wins off the top and they’ll very likely take down a few of the heavy hitters on the schedule as well, so long as they stay healthy. However, if you like them to go over this win total and get into the double digits, the more advantageous futures bet could be for Baltimore to win the division at +210. 

The pick: Over 9.5 (-130)

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