Before today at M&T Bank Stadium, we’ll take a look how the oddsmakers think Baltimore stacks up against the rest of the field in the battle for the AFC North. This year seems more wide open than years past, and it should be intriguing to see how this division plays out in the coming months.
To accurately judge how the odds have changed in the race for the division we have to look at the preseason futures for the AFC North. Cincinnati were modest 180 favorites to win the division, Pittsburgh was second in line at 210 with Baltimore coming in third at 225. Finally, Cleveland was the only considerable underdog on this list, coming in at 500.
Odds provided by http://www.bettingsites.us
After two weeks, things have changed.
Today, the odds look like this:
Odds to win the 2014 AFC North Division
Cincinnati Bengals -130
Baltimore Ravens 175
Pittsburgh Steelers 550
Cleveland Browns 1400
As you can see, despite the Bengals 1-1 start to the season, they have impressed the oddsmakers and are now the odds-on favorite to win the North. Baltimore’s overall odds decreased, but they now look to have a much better shot than Pittsburgh to win the division. It’s not surprising as the Steelers have looked terrible in their first two games this season and boast a 0-2 record heading into a tough matchup with the Chicago Bears. The Browns have punted away their season after two weeks and are clearly an afterthought, despite the preseason hype that they were much improved.
Are the Ravens a solid value at 175?
It is unfortunate that the odds on Baltimore actually decreased from the preseason line of 225, despite the team going 1-1 and not looking especially great in the process. The 175 line is more a testament to how awful the rest of the division has played rather than handing out praise to the Ravens.
Even at these decreased odds, I think Baltimore has plenty of value. The bookmakers are giving the Bengals way too much credit. Yes, they have an excellent defensive front seven, but to me there are plenty of questions surrounding the offense. Andy Dalton is arguably one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league and continually underperforms even with one of the best young wide receivers in the game in A.J. Green. Cincinnati hasn’t proven anything yet and was mighty lucky to get a win against Pittsburgh last Sunday Night.
Despite their 0-2 start, the Steelers shouldn’t be totally taken out of the discussion for the division, but a Week 3 loss against the Bears may take them out of the conversation. It seems this just isn’t Pittsburgh’s year. I could still see them competing for a Wild-Card spot if they turn things around quickly, as their defense is still excellent, and if they can get going offensively things may change.
It’s not even worth entertaining a discussion on the Browns who are fighting for the crown of the NFL’s worst offense with the pitiful Jacksonville Jaguars. The Trent Richardson trade, whether or not you think it was advantageous for the organization or not, should tell you all you need to know about where this team is headed this season.
If one likes the Raven to repeat as AFC North Champions, now may be the best time to bet. If Baltimore wins against Houston on Sunday, which I think they will, the Ravens odds will almost certainly get worse. Furthermore, the Bengals face a tough matchup against the visiting Green Bay Packers and could easily be 1-2 after Week 3, perhaps vaulting the Ravens into favorite status in the eyes of the bookies.
Bettors may not get a price this good on Baltimore for the rest of the season depending on how things play out. I have zero doubts this team is playoff bound and that more than likely means another AFC North crown.