The AFC North is the best division in the AFC heading into 2012 with most NFL picks sharps pegging the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals 5as teams that will finish above .500. The Steelers for stretches of 2011 were the best team in the land but they were bounced from the postseason by the Broncos 23-29 in their first game. The Ravens appeaedr to be on their way to a Lombardi Trophy before getting bested by the Patriots 23-20 in the AFC Championship game. Cincinnatti has a new star QB in Andy Dalton and with a little luck they have all the ingredients to make a deep postseason run in 2012. The Browns remain in the abyss, rudderless and rebuilding but full of hope nonetheless. Below are some 2012 AFC North Picks from our professional panel of NFL predictions experts.
1. Ravens +150 AFC North Odds
Offense: Question marks upfront must be answered but QB Joe Flacco should turn the corner with RB Ray Rice moving to elite level status.
Defense: The defense should still be in the top-5 despite the absence of Terrell Suggs and the decline of Ray Lewis.
Bottom Line:This team has a nice blend of youth and experience along with good coaching and leadership. Depth and durability are the only questions.
2. Steelers +110 AFC North Odds
Offense: Ben Roethlisberger always gives his team a chance to win but losing starting RB Rashard Mendenhall for a stretch will hurt.
Defense: Great defense that is aging but deadly. D-line looks ordinary but Dick LeBeau’s system is designed to plant the quarterback while remaining stingy against the run.
Bottom Line: New O-coordinator Todd Haley and Big Ben don’t mesh which could hurt what could be a scary air attack. Pittsburgh also appears to be falling behind the Ravens who beat them twice in 2011
3. Bengals +400 AFC North Odds
Offense: The Andy Dalton to WR A.J. Green connection has the momentum of a runaway freight train but finding a complement to Green is a major question.
Defense: The back seven is suspect but the D-line is very tough up the middle. Mike Zimmerman is one of the best coordinators in the NFL
Bottom Line: Bad timing for the improving and well-coached Bengals with two Super Bowl contenders at the top.
4. Browns +2000 AFC North Odds
Offense:#3 overall pick RB Trent Richardson could be very good but this offense will go through some growing pains with #22 pick Brandon Weeden at QB. LT Joe Thomas is a human shield that should help Weeden’s development but this offense will find points hard to come by.
Defense: The transition to a 4-3 defense has been a success and the Browns can play some D against the pass. Against the run Cleveland can be had with a thin LB corps.
Bottom Line: Limited team with coaching castoffs trying to mesh while playing the in the treacherous North division.