AFC North Betting Breakdown: Browns Show Value - Prediction Machine

AFC North Betting Breakdown: Browns Show Value

AFC North Betting Preview

AFC North Betting - Value To Be Found In Cleveland

The AFC North is one of the more intriguing divisions headed into 2023 because of uncertainty and unanswered questions.

” Uncertainty often creates opportunities in the betting market and I believe that’s the case for at least one AFC North squad this season.”

The Browns are by far the biggest wild card in the division because fans and bettors aren’t sure what to expect from QB Deshaun Watson. Nobody questions the 3-time Pro Bowlers’ talent, but after struggling bad (38.3 QBR in six games) to finish the 2022 campaign, he needs to prove his controversial off-field history, suspension, and the rust are behind him.

Cleveland finished 2022 ranked 23rd in Prediction Machine’s power rankings, but with a talented roster and the addition of Amari Cooper, the Browns are a sneaky option as a +4000 2023 Super Bowl dart. But as high as that potential is, the public perception is that the floor is equally low considering Watson’s potential to flop and the Browns’ recent history of under performing. While I agree there is a low floor for the Browns, I don’t think it’s likely they see that floor.

The respected outlet gave Cleveland an “A” for an offseason grade thanks in part to the additions of defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson and Za’Darius Smith. The Browns also added safeties Juan Thornhill and Rodney McLeod, who combined for 5 INTs last season. With an improved defense and mostly positive reports about Watson this summer, futures tickets on the Browns aren’t a bad idea and the price is right at +360 for the division crown.

I’m bullish on Watson as a football player because he’s still 27-years-old and I’m buying into the “rust” excuse for his diminished play last season. I think people are forgetting too easily how good Watson was in 2020 with limited receiving talent. Watson was regularly compiling 300 yard games while making Brandin Cooks look like Jerry Rice at times. Watson has the ability to make everyone around him better and the pieces around him in 2023 are pretty darn good.

Team Win Division Win Total Make Playoffs Miss Playoffs
Cincinnati Bengals +125 11.5 -320 +240
Baltimore Ravens +250 9.5 -160 +130
Cleveland Browns +360 8.5 +100 -125
Pittsburgh Steelers +550 8.5 +130 -160

While the Browns have been under performing with a lot of talent, the Steelers have been doing the opposite. It’s easy to forget Pittsburgh won its last four games in 2022 to finish 9-8 and extend coach Mike Tomlin’s streak of 15 seasons without finishing below .500. I’m not betting Steelers’ futures prices, but if forced to, I’d bet them -160 to miss the playoffs. While the Steelers’ defense should continue to be stout, there are questions about their offensive line depth (again) and QB Kenny Pickett threw more INTs (9) than TDs (7) last season. Don’t be surprised if this is the year Tomlin’s streak comes to an end. 

Despite their late season success, Pittsburgh finished 20th in our power rankings and I don’t expect them to crack the top-20 this season. 

The Ravens finished the season 13th on our power board and they always seem to be in the mix for playoff contention, so I can’t blame anyone for looking at the -160 number for them to make the playoffs, but because the AFC North is so competitive, I wouldn’t bet it over -130.

Baltimore’s passing game should theoretically be improved with the addition of WRs Nelson Agholor, Odell Beckham Jr., and 1st-round pick Zay Flowers. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken has a strong college pedigree, but hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2019. Word on the street, confirmed by Lamar Jackson himself, is that he plans to run a lot less in this offense. Opinions on Jackson as a pure passer vary and it looks like the 2023 season will go a long way toward resolving that debate.

The Bengals began last season 2-3, but strung together 10 wins before being eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual champion Kansas City Chiefs. Cincinnati finished the season at No. 5 on our power rankings. I’m not expecting any significant drop off from Cincinnati, but I can’t bet them to win the division (+125) or to make the playoffs (-320) because the value simply isn’t there in a league full of parity where one or two key injuries can torpedo a season. The loss of RB Samaje Perine to Denver may hurt more than fans think, but we might look back on the addition of tackle Orlando Brown was one of the best signings of free agency.  


As you may have guessed by my optimistic view of Watson, I have a pending wager on him to win league MVP. That bet can currently be found at +3300 and I think it has tremendous value compared to someone like Lamar Jackson (+1400). MVP bets are all about upside and who has the ability to put together the perfect season. While Jackson may be the better bet to have a better stats or a stronger season, I’d argue they both have similar upsides and the odds don’t reflect that.

This is a personal preference, but I don’t like betting NFL Futures awards at less than +1000 because of injury potential so I have no interest in Joe Burrow at +650, but he’s certainly in the conversation for legitimate MVP candidates.

I believe MVP bets on guys who don’t play QB is equivalent to burning money. 

Name Odds
Joe Burrow - QB, CIN +650
Lamar Jackson - QB, BAL +1400
Deshaun Watson - QB, CLE +3300
Kenny Pickett - QB, PIT +5000
Ja'Marr Chase - WR, CIN +10000


With the NFL continuing its transition to a pass happy league and WRs Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp winning this award the last two seasons, Ja’Marr Chase at +1200 is worthy of consideration although I won’t be betting it.

I don’t like this market as much as the MVP market because it’s less predictable. With the MVP futures bet, we can be pretty sure the winner is a QB and start to hone in on 8-10 realistic candidates, but with OPOY there are so many options that the value is sucked out of the proposition. This is of course ironic because technically less players are eligible for OPOY than MVP, but there are no signs of these recent position trends stopping. 

In my opinion, the best way to attack this award is with a real long shot, and nobody in the AFC North gets me excited to make a swing like that.

Name Odds
Ja'Marr Chase - WR, CIN +1200
Lamar Jackson - QB, BAL +2200
Nick Chubb - RB, CLE +2200
Joe Burrow - QB, CIN +3300
Tee Higgins - WR, CIN +8000
Amari Cooper - WR, CLE +8000
Najee Harris - RB, PIT +10000


Fair or not, this award is about accumulating sacks. A pass rusher has captured the DPOY crown eight of the last nine seasons. Myles Garrett (+700) and TJ Watt (+800) are two of the best pass rushers in the league, so they’re natural options to consider. With so many elite pass rushers in the NFL, injury concerns and the outside chance a non-pass rusher puts together a worthy season, the odds just aren’t in your favor in this market.

Name Odds
Myles Garrett - DE, CLE +700
TJ Watt - LB, PIT +800
Roquan Smith - LB, BAL +4000
Minkah Fitzpatrick - S, PIT +10000


Give me Zay Flowers all day long at +2000 in this market. Odell Beckham Jr. is as fragile as a Jenga tower on spring break, so if Flowers can live up to his potential, there’s an easy path to him being a No. 1 option in an offense where the QB is expected to throw more. 

Of course QBs are big threats in this market, but the awful teams they’re on might hurt their chances. Flowers was drafted behind two other WRs at No. 22 overall, so I like that he likely has a chip on his shoulder too.

Name Odds
Zay Flowers - WR, BAL +2000
Cedric Tillman - WR, CLE +4000

Coach of the Year

The Coach of the Year market is kind of weird. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it doesn’t always go to the best coach. I love what last year’s winner Brian Daboll did with the Giants last season, but if you were a GM building a team and had your pick of the NFL coaching litter, would you take him over John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin? 

Guys like Tomlin and Harbaugh are victims of their own success in this market and since they’ve created high expectations, they don’t get the attention they deserve when they have great seasons. The Coach of the year is often from teams who had awful expectations and a really bad season the year before. The sports writers in the national media love to get behind stories like that. Since no team in the AFC North finished with less than 7 wins last season, I’ve got no interest in betting any of these options.

Name Odds
Kevin Stefanski - CLE +2200
Mike Tomlin - PIT +2200
Zac Taylor - CIN +2200
John Harbaugh - BAL +2500

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