06 Aug AFC North: Wins Total Futures
The football season is less than two months away. This means fantasy drafts are starting, and it is time to make some money!
This series will look at each division to see what teams we should, and should not bet, on based on the Las Vegas numbers for Over/Under Futures. You will also notice there is not a ton of talk about numbers from last season. This is for good reason. Not only was last season an anomaly, but we also turn the page on a new chapter of NFL football in 2021. One which sees us with a 17-game schedule. We will be using the numbers from FanDuel Sportsbook for this exercise, and as we know, these numbers can change depending on what happens before the season.
Last Season AFC North O/U Futures Record: 4-0
AFC North: Wins Total Futures
Baltimore Ravens | Over/Under 11
This number is tricky. Just two seasons ago Baltimore went 14-2 and had the best record in the NFL. Last year, even without winning the division, they also hit this number of 11. But, for some reason, it still makes me nervous.
Lamar Jackson is the best running quarterback in the NFL, possibly of all-time, but he has to slow down at some point. It is also not a great sign that the Ravens are banning reporters from releasing any pictures of him throwing at practice. To me this means they are a bit uncomfortable with how he is coming along in this area. With Sammy Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman being added to Marquise Brown, the wide receivers could be much better than in previous years. But again, it will all depend on the development of Jackson in the pass game.
The run game will be there. Despite a weaker offensive line, including the loss of Orlando Brown Jr., Baltimore will run the ball as much as any team in the NFL. This will muddy up games and allow them to stay in most, if not all of them, and avoid going down by big margins. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards will be a key to this offensive attack.
On defense, a normal place of strength, the Ravens will be counting on a lot of new faces. Rookie Jason Oweh, whom they got with the pick received for Orlando Brown Jr, and newly signed Justin Houston amongst them. While the secondary is good, and the team likes Patrick Queen at the linebacker position, it may still be a struggle to start the season for the AFC North favorites.
This team embodies why I hate to see round numbers in the Over/Under column. I can easily see a push in this scenario. With the extra game though, I will reluctantly take the Over.
Cleveland Browns | Over/Under 10.5
I love the Browns, and this may be an issue. It will be interesting to see if the Browns are going to Browns, or if they are truly a new team under new management. I am going to side with optimism and think they have finally figured it out.
Baker Mayfield may not be great, but he is great for this offense. Not asked to do much with a great run game, he is able to make the plays he needs to. It is also good to see him being less arrogant and more confident. Something which could have started to run teammates the wrong way at times.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt could be the best duo of running backs in the NFL. Both have the ability to lead the charge, and whether the team needs to pound the ball or dump it off, they have the player to do it. Not to mention, coming into the season, Cleveland has PFF’s top rated offensive line, which will only make things easier.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are serviceable, if not very good wide receivers. Add to this second-year player Donovan Peoples-Jones and the receiver’s group can keep the offense in the Top 10. The same area they were last season under new head coach Kevin Stefanski. The difference this year? They might have a defense to match.
Myles Garrett is great. Alongside him the team has brought in another number one overall draft pick in Jadeveon Clowney. Although he’s had a little bit of a struggle in recent seasons, Clowney as a second asset to Garrett could make a huge difference. The secondary could also be good if rookie Greg Newsome can join Denzel Ward to shut down opposing wide receivers. On top of this, Cleveland will also be getting back Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams to produce a secondary with extremely high and young upside.
This team should be loaded. If all things pan out, they are my pick to win this division, and this obviously means I like the Over. I hope it does not come back to burn me.
Pittsburgh Steelers | Over/Under 8.5
Everyone is down on Pittsburgh this season. Ben Roethlisberger looks washed; the offensive line is in shambles; and they have a rookie running back in Najee Harris whom no one is sure of. So, what is there to hang your hat on? Mike Tomlin.
Some Steelers fans are sick of him not getting them deep into the playoffs. But they do not know how good they have it. He has never had a losing record and with all the instability created by Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, he kept this team from imploding. That, as it turns out, was an extremely hard task.
The defense is also good. T.J. Watt is a perennial defensive player of the year contender, and Minkah Fitzpatrick is a stud in the secondary. This defense will keep the steelers in a lot of games, and the offense behind Big Ben, will be explosive enough to win games on their own.
8.5 seems insulting for a team as talented as Pittsburgh. Like with any team, there are questions. I trust Tomlin to be able to answer those questions and get the team to a .500 record. Therefore, I cannot take the under. Give me the Over.
Cincinnati Bengals | Over/Under 6.5
Is Joe Burrow healthy? What will Ja’Marr Chase bring? Will Jonah Williams be healthy and able to anchor the offensive line after the team passed on Penei Sewell? These are three big questions to be answered if the Bengals want to beat their total this season.
Cincinnati has already announced that Burrow will not participate in preseason games. This could mean the team knows what they have, and it could mean they do not know if he is fully ready to go. Either way, I do not like it.
The connection with Chase will be there. As teammates in college for one season, they combined for more then 20 touchdowns. It, of course, was not against NFL level defenses, but the meld is there. We also saw what Burrow could do with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd last season before his injury. With this group of receivers, and a bell cow back in Joe Mixon Jr. behind him, this offense will be very good and very under-valued for fantasy rosters. But this does not always mean wins.
The defense is another matter. It was bad last season, and in a division with Baltimore and Cleveland, it could be exposed again in 2021.
Cincinnati is still on the bottom rung of the division. Pittsburgh looks to be slipping, but you can never count on them to do so. Mike Tomlin has yet to have a losing record and it likely will not start this year, and so someone needs to finish fourth. It will be the Bengals yet again. The real benefit in this number is the extra .5 wins. I can see the Bengals getting to six. I cannot see them getting to seven. Take the Under.
Dominick is a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area. Playing fantasy football for more than 20 years and writing for more than five, he has a vast knowledge of both the NFL and fantasy football. Despite his being blind, Dominick is a consistent ranker amongst FantasyPros experts, and always strives to be better than last season. Follow him on Twitter @EnvisionFF and read his weekly Best Bets articles during the season.