AFC North Odds: 2012 Preview
The Pittsburgh Steelers begin the season as the favorites to win the AFC North, but at least two big question marks hang over them heading into Week 1.
Both question marks for the Steelers are on offense, as they begin the season as a 5/4 favorite to capture the AFC North crown. Question No. 1 for Pittsburgh is what will happen with wide receiver Mike Wallace. The Steelers leading receiver is in the midst of a holdout and it doesn't look like either side is prepared to budge any time soon.
If Wallace is still holding out once the season begins the Steelers will need Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to step up. Question No. 2 for the Steelers is their running game. Rashard Mendenhall, recovering from knee surgery isn't expected to be ready to play until at least Week 6. That leaves the starting job in the hands of Isaac Redman, who only has 162 career carries in two seasons.
The Baltimore Ravens are the defending AFC North champs and they begin the season on the Steelers' heels on the futures at 13/10 to repeat. The Baltimore offense remains in the hands of Joe Flacco, who could be primed for a big season entering a contract year.
His biggest weapon is still running back Ray Rice, who was second in rushing in the league last season. On defense the Ravens have a new coordinator in former linebacker coach Dean Pees, after former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano took the head job with the Colts. Pees' defense will be missing a big piece with Terrell Suggs expected to miss the entire season with a torn Achilles. Last season Suggs led the Ravens with 14 sacks and he also registered 70 tackles.
The Cincinnati Bengals surprised a lot of people last season after finishing 9-7 and advancing to the playoffs as a Wild Card. Because of that the oddsmakers have them bumped up to 4/1 on the futures. Andy Dalton exceeded expectations last season as a rookie,and he'll need to avoid any kind of sophomore slump for the Bengals to return to the postseason again.
He has two talented receivers in A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, but the Cincinnati receiversare pretty thin after that. Cincinnati has a new running back after pouching BenJarvus Green-Ellis from New England, but their greatest addition will be the return of cornerback Leon Hall. He tore his Achilles last November, but is expected to be ready to start the season.
The Cleveland Browns won only four games last season, but it allowed them to add a new running back, Trent Richardson and quarterback, Brandon Weeden, through the draft. The Browns also upgraded their offensive line, which although young, may be one of the best up-and-coming units in the league.
Overall the Browns remain a young team and they're likely still at least another season away from contending which is why the oddsmakers stamped them as a 20/1 underdog in the AFC North.