In 2021, the AFC North was wide open. The Bengals won the division with a 10-7 record and were only half a game ahead of the Steelers in the standings, and two games ahead of both the Browns and Ravens.
This season, we’re expecting another highly-competitive race as the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns have virtually identical odds of winning the division. The Steelers have the longest odds, as their franchise is in transition after the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.
Predicting the winner of the AFC North may be the trickiest task of all eight NFL divisions. The Browns made a blockbuster trade this offseason for Deshaun Watson, but for non-football reasons, he might miss a few games or the entire season altogether. With that in mind, I changed Cleveland’s power rating to reflect their strength as a team without Watson.
Read below, to find out the result of my AFC North simulations and look at each team’s schedule with win probabilities and projected spreads for each game.
Note: These AFC North futures bet odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and are current as of Tuesday, June 21, at 11 a.m. ET. Be careful, as many of these NFL odds might shift as we get closer to the 2022 NFL season.
AFC North Winner Betting Odds
- Baltimore Ravens (+190)
- Cincinnati Bengals (+190)
- Cleveland Browns (+230)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (+900)
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AFC North Division Simulation
|AFC North||Projected Wins||Projected Losses||Division Winner %||Division Winner Breakeven Odds|
Bengals Schedule & Win Probabilities
|Week||Opponent||Bengals Projected Spread||Bengals Projected Win%|
In one of the biggest surprises of the 2021 season, the Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC Championship and played in Super Bowl 56 against the Los Angeles Rams. Based on the Bengals’ strong performance last year, you might expect them to repeat as division champs this year.
Surprisingly, I have Cincinnati as a favorite in only eight of their 17 games. In two road games against the Saints and Browns, I project 50/50 toss-ups. In three additional games (at the Ravens, Titans, and Patriots), I have the Bengals as an underdog of three points or less.
Cincy’s win distribution has them as a feast or famine team this season. If it’s a feast, they win the division. If it’s a famine, they could easily have a 6-11 or 7-10 record.
If you like Cincinnati’s chances this season, I would recommend betting on them to win the division rather than wagering on them to go Over their win total.
Browns Schedule & Win Probabilities
|Week||Opponent||Browns Projected Spread||Browns Projected Win%|
The Browns are the biggest question mark in the entire NFL, and that has a dramatic effect on the AFC North odds. Cleveland could have Deshaun Watson for the entire season, they may miss him for 4-6 games, or he could be suspended for the entire season.
Most of my power ratings are based only on football-related factors, but for the Browns, I am assuming that Watson will not play at all this season.
For the first four games of the season, I have the Browns as sizable favorites of 3.5 to 10.5 points. The problem for Cleveland is that I have predict them as underdogs in 10 of their final 13 games.
Even in the scenario where Watson only misses the first four games, the Browns will feel the ramifications of that absence as their first four games are must-win contests if they want to win the division this year.
Ravens Schedule & Win Probabilities
|Week||Opponent||Ravens Projected Spread||Ravens Projected Win%|
In 2021, the Ravens started the season with an 8-3 record before losing their final six games to finish 8-9 and miss the playoffs. One reason for that disappointing end to the year was that star quarterback Lamar Jackson only played in three games after Week 10.
If Jackson can stay healthy this season, Baltimore has the best chance of winning the division. That is a big if, as mobile quarterbacks like Jackson frequently get injured.
When looking at the Ravens’ schedule, they could easily have one of the best records in the NFL. They play the Jets, Panthers, Falcons, Jaguars, and Steelers (twice), all of which should be easy wins.
I project Baltimore as a 7+ point favorite in five of their games and a favorite of a touchdown or less in eight other contests. The Ravens should only be an underdog three times this season, when they travel to Cincinnati in Week 18 and earlier home dates against the Bills and Buccaneers.
In my mind, Baltimore is the clear favorite to win the division.
Steelers Schedule & Win Probabilities
|Week||Opponent||Steelers Projected Spread||Steelers Projected Win%|
The Steelers are the only AFC North team this season that should have a losing record. After the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, 2022 will be a rebuilding year.
I have Pittsburgh as a favorite in only two games this season, against the Jets and Falcons. In nine games, I project the Steelers as an underdog of less than a touchdown.
For Pittsburgh to win the division, a lot must go right. They will need to win most of the games that I currently have them as narrow underdogs, and then pull off a major upset against a team like the Bills, Eagles, Colts, or Ravens.
The Steelers winning the AFC North is a longshot, and that is reflected in the odds. Unfortunately, the odds don’t truly show how much of an underdog Pittsburgh should be to win the division.
AFC North Winner Prediction
Baltimore Ravens (+190)
The best bet to win the AFC North likely comes down to your opinion on the Ravens and the Bengals. The Steelers are projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this upcoming season and the Browns are overvalued because of the high probability that Watson misses (at least part of) the season.
If you believe that the Bengals will be just as good this season as last, you should bet on them to win the division. I am not in that camp, which is why I like the Ravens.
Baltimore is a perennial playoff contender. With a full season of Jackson and a reinforced offensive line, the Ravens should be the favorite to reclaim the division.