2017 AFC North Off Season Report Cards, Odds: Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Browns

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ESPN.com issued its off season report cards on the AFC North for 2017 while Gambling911.com has its picks based on the best futures odds.

Pittsburgh Steelers – As always the Steelers will enter the season as the team to beat and with odds of -150 to win the AFC North division.  Most recent years, however, the division has been competitive between at lest two or three teams. 

The good news during the offseason is that Ben Rothlisberger did not retire. One of the league’s top pass-rushers, James Harrison, also returns.  Antonio Brown will also remain on the Steelers roster this season.

Le'Veon Bell will not be returning, however.

Barnwell does give the Steelers a B grade for being able to maintain much of the Steelers core during the offseason.  They are probably still good enough to win the division again at an okay price of -150.

Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens were on an improvement trend last season.  After winning just five regular season games in 2015, Baltimore hit the .500 mark this past year.

Perhaps their biggest weakness in recent years has been the lack of depth in the secondary.

They have improved dramatically here during the offseason with the signing of veteran free agents Tony Jefferson from Arizona.

At the cornerback position, the Ravens signed Brandon Carr.

Meanwhile, Danny Woodhead should help in certain areas such as checkdowns and screen passes. 

The pass rush and wide receiver position might still hold this team back a bit.

The oddsmakers have Baltimore winning 9 regular season games and that’s around where we are at as well.

Cincinnati Bengals – Barnwell writes of the Bengals:

John Ross, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert could be a terrifying combination. It wasn't unreasonable for the Bengals to allow Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to leave last offseason, although it would have probably been better, in hindsight, for the organization to hold onto one of their two drafted-and-developed products. Injuries prevented Green and Eifert from making a simultaneous impact in 2016.

If we don't include the game in which Green tore his hamstring on the opening possession against the Bills, Cincinnati's duo played all of three contests together last season. The Bengals averaged 26 points in those three contests, up a full touchdown from their average of 19 points the rest of the way. Part of that was playing the Browns, but the presence of two terrifying weapons in the passing game opened up passing avenues for Andy Dalton and running lanes for an otherwise frustrating Bengals attack.    

Unfortunately for Cincinnati, their offensive line is “in shambles” according to Barnwell.  Andy Dalton will not have the protection he requires.

Oddsmakers see the Bengals as a .500 team with odds of winning UNDER 8.5 regular season games at -140.

Cleveland Browns – They drafted Myles Garrett, who Barnwell predicts will “be a building block alongside Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton and Joe Haden in Cleveland's new 4-3 defense under Gregg Williams”.

They also massively upgraded their offensive line.

Barnwell writes:

The largest and most successful rebuild of the past few years is what the Raiders have pulled off under Reggie McKenzie, so it's no surprise that teams at the bottom of the league have begun to emulate (steal) McKenzie's process. The former Packers personnel executive built his roster from the offensive line out, and so the Browns did the same this offseason. It helps Sashi Brown to start with a future Hall of Famer at left tackle in Joe Thomas, but it's telling that Cleveland quite publicly allowed right tackle Mitchell Schwartz to leave in free agency for the Chiefs last offseason, a move that now looks like a bargain given how the tackle market escalated this winter.

Cleveland shifted gears this offseason and went heavy on protecting its quarterback, whomever it might be. Zeitler, signed away from the rival Bengals, is one of the best guards in football. Intelligently, though, the Browns first locked up incumbent guard Joel Bitonio to an extension, ensuring that they secured a talented player's future before re-setting the market at the same position. Cleveland also imported JC Tretter. The former Packer had flashed stretches of usefulness over the past couple of seasons, but I'm less enthused by this signing than Bitonio or Zeitler. While right tackle is still a question mark for Cleveland, this should be an effective and quite possibly excellent offensive line.

Of course, what Cleveland needs more than anything right now is a solid quarterback.  There are early signs this could be coming to fruition.

From Sports Illustrated:

Many thought Brock Osweiler's days as a starter were over when he was sent to Cleveland in a splashy deal for draft picks—even the Browns didn't bill him as the prize acquisition of the trade. So far, he's proving to be much more than a throw-in.

Take the Browns to win OVER 4.5 regular season games, paying $11 for every $10 bet.

- Don Shapiro, Gambling911.com

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