The AFC North has produced to of the past five Super Bowl winners, and at least two playoff teams in each of those last five years. There isn’t another division that can compete with those numbers, and that is why the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravnes won’t be able to take anything for granted heading in to this season. The Ravens are listed at +2,000 to win the Super Bowl, and the biggest part of the problem could be getting out of their own division.
2013 Super Bowl Odds: Baltimore Ravens +2,000
The Ravens cleaned house following their Super Bowl win by saying goodbye to Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Dannell Elerbe, and Anquan Boldin among others. Baltimore locked up Joe Flacco with one of the richest contracts in NFL history, and he will need to step up as the new face of the franchise. Elvis Dumervil and Michael Huff were brought in on the defensive side of the ball to fill the voids left by Ellerbe and Reed, while the line received upgrades with Chris Canty and Marcus Spears. However, it will now be Flacco and an offense that features Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones to lead the way, and the Ravens could have a tough time getting out of the AFC North.
The Bengals are intent on being the team that knocks Baltimore off and wins the division, which is the next step after reaching the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in franchise history. The offense took a major step forward last season with quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver AJ Green leading the way, and should be even better with the addition of the top-ranked tight end from the 2013 NFL Draft in Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Cincinnati didn’t stand pat on the defensive side of the ball either despite putting up solid numbers, as they brought in James Harrison to continue his reign of terror in the AFC North only with a new look.
Pittsburgh is another team that feels it can contend for a division title this coming year, as it looks to put last season’s disappointment behind it. The Steelers finished 8-8 last year and missed the postseason, but they will benefit from a healthy roster and last year’s adversity in the long run. The loss of wide receiver Mike Wallace and cornerback Keenan Lewis due to cap constraints doesn’t help though, and neither does losing Harrison to a division rival.
The Browns are hoping that coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner can take quarterback Brandon Weeden and the offense to the next level, and both coaches have reiterated their belief in the talent that is there. Cleveland brought in Davone Bess to solidify a receiving core that it feels will be very good with Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin both set to take another step forward, and running back Trent Richardson showed flashes of dominance in his rookie season. The Browns also upgraded on defense with first-round pick linebacker Barkevious Mingo and third-round pick cornerback Leon McFadden, so they may be closer to contention than some people think.
Click here to get a full list of NFL futures for the 2013-14 NFL season.