2022 AFC North, NFC North Division Odds and Win Totals

afc north division odds nfc north division odds

The 2022 NFL season is less than two weeks away, and the team at BeerLife Sports is gearing up to help you make money. In this article, The Professor will look at season-long outlooks for the AFC and NFC North alongside the Division Odds and Win Totals available on DraftKings. Previews for the remaining four divisions will follow later this week; you can check out The Professor’s breakdown of the AFC and NFC West here.

Remember, if you haven’t signed up to get the Oracle’s picks this season, be sure to sign up today! The Oracle hammered the NFL in 2021 (Up +65 units), so you’ll want to get his picks texted directly to your phone starting Week 1!

Please note that The Professor’s model produces two key numbers to consider: Games Favored and Model Expected Wins, which is based on the Pythagorean Expectation for each team’s projected points for and points against. This helps to pull down some extremes and is a reminder that a team favored to win all seventeen games is not the same as a projection to go undefeated.

AFC North Outlook

TeamPFPAFavoredModel Expected WinsDK Win TotalDK Division Odds

Cincinnati’s detractors point to the fact that each of the wins on their Super Bowl run came by a narrow margin, but while that is a solid reason not to pencil them as AFC Champs, it’s probably going too far to suggest it was some sort of fluke. The Bengals picked up steam as the NFL season went along and their young core of talent on offense started to gel; with quarterback Joe Burrow returning from an ACL injury and rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase coming into the NFL after not playing football in 2020, it was bound to take some time to get going, and when they did, the results were spectacular.

Burrow, Chase, and the rest of the offense got plenty of support from a defense that returns all of its pieces for 2022, plus some extra depth and versatility in first-round safety/slot Dax Hill. The Trey Hendrickson-led defensive line will need to do its part for an AFC North repeat, but the key factor that puts Cincinnati ahead of Baltimore in these rankings is Burrow. Whether or not the attempted offseason upgrades actually improve the offensive line, Burrow is a special player with terrific mental command of the game, and with Chase and Tee Higgins at receiver, it’s hard not to love this offense heading into 2022.

Of course, the Ravens have a former MVP at quarterback, and Baltimore appears set to return to the option-based, tight end-heavy offense that took the NFL by storm during Lamar Jackson’s MVP campaign. Even if that goes to plan, however, the Ravens still need to answer questions about what Jackson will do when he’s forced to win from the pocket from third down, or when he faces the sort of blitz-heavy Cover 0/Cover 1-defense that Miami used to derail him last season. The latter question should be answered in short order, as the Ravens play the Dolphins in Week 2.

If Baltimore’s cornerback tandem of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters returns to form after last season’s season-ending injuries, the Ravens should be in contention even if the offense is more 2020/2021 than 2019. However, that’s a big if on Humphrey and Peters, and the question comes on a defense that features a few long-toothed veterans expected to play significant roles, including defensive tackles Calais Campbell and Michael Pierce and edge rusher Justin Houston. The Ravens should be in the thick of the crowded AFC Playoff field, but they’ll need several things to click to elevate themselves to the front of that pack.

The Browns are another team that needs several things to click, to put it mildly. When quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games, he was set to miss games against Carolina, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Chargers, and New England, which seemed manageable. Then the suspension was extended, and the list of teams grew to include Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay.

That’s a significant step up in competition, and the Bengals and Ravens games are pivotal to the AFC North race. This Browns defense is loaded in the secondary and features a premier pass rusher in Myles Garrett, so perhaps they survive, but they are also looking to play a nickel look with an undersized weakside linebacker in Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, which could give them issues against the run unless Cleveland’s unheralded defensive tackle group greatly exceeds expectations.

Rounding out the AFC North is Pittsburgh. The good news for the Steelers heading into 2022 is that based on his first two preseason games, Kenny Pickett is a darn good quarterback prospect. Pickett won me over on a two-minute drive against the Jaguars that saw him complete multiple balls even though he was about to get SMACKED; both throws of note were to tight end Pat Freiermuth, and the second was a beautiful ball feathered up the seam. That drive left no question that Pickett has some serious cojones, and the more I watch him, the more his combination of in-pocket poise and solid but unspectacular athleticism reminds me of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, although Carr may not match Pickett’s calm when delivering the ball at the moment of impact.

What that means for this year is a difficult question, because as mentioned in that Pickett breakdown, he was getting crushed, and that was due to another horrific performance from his starting offensive line. Jaguars edge rusher Josh Allen turned left tackle Dan Moore into a turnstile in limited snaps, and there aren’t words for what hybrid rusher Arden Key did to left guard Kendrick Green, a display that looked even worse because Key did it while wearing number 49.

Head coach Mike Tomlin is known for the “two dogs, one bone” quip in regards to roster competition, but the “seven dogs, five bones” approach on the offensive line has produced dismal results over the past two years, and that group is set to hold the offense back again. That’s a problem, because as good as Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick are, Larry Ojungobi is a poor substitute for the presence that Stephon Tuitt used to provide for this unit at defensive end. Pittsburgh’s defense was utterly dominant during the 2019 Mason Rudolph/Duck Hodges quarterback season, but the Steelers lost 42-21 to the Chiefs in the playoffs last year, and it seems unlikely that they will return to the 2019 defensive standard in the foreseeable future.

The Professor’s Favorite AFC North Plays

DraftKings has the Ravens as the division favorite at +140, so while I think the AFC North shapes up for a good race, I have to list the Bengals, who the model projects to win the division, as a premium play to win the AFC North at +170. Here’s hoping that right tackle La’El Collins gets on the field at some point!

Baltimore over 9.5 is priced at -160, but with the model at 10.23 expected wins and 13 games favored, I’ll play at the short odds. The same goes for Cleveland under 8.5 at -140; the model’s projection puts them at 7.52 expected wins and 7 games favored. Surviving the first six games without Watson was one thing, but those added five games are likely to send them off the rails.

Premium Picks: Cincinnati Bengals, +170, AFC North Champs

Solid Value: Cleveland Browns under 8.5 wins, -140; Baltimore Ravens over 9.5 wins, -160

Reasonable Long Shots: None

NFC North

TeamPFPAFavoredModel Expected WinsDK Win TotalDK Division Odds

The NFC North features a key matchup out of the gates, as the Packers and Vikings are set to face off in Minnesota in Week One. The visiting Packers are favored between 1.5 and 2.5 depending on what sportsbook you shop at and the time of day, a reminder that the betting world believes Green Bay still holds an edge over their division rivals.

Green Bay is moving into the post-Davante Adams world, and without one particular standout receiver, Green Bay’s offense may lean more toward attacking opposing defenses’ weaknesses rather than playing to their offensive strengths, as the Chiefs might do without Tyreek Hill in the fold. The offense will need to look different, but with two-time defending MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, it seems more likely than not that things will work out, whether it’s the established Allen Lazard, a veteran like Randall Cobb or Sammy Watkins, or a rookie like Romeo Doubs or Christian Watson that steps up. If star offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins get back in the fold, the transition will be easier, but their status for Week 1 remains murky at best.

In the meantime, Green Bay’s defense, led by stud cornerback Jaire Alexander and the rest of the secondary, will be expected to raise their standard after adding two Georgia products, linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, in the first round. They get a stiff opening test against the Vikings, who will be unveiling new head coach Kevin O’Connell’s offense. Minnesota’s offense posted 34 points in Kirk Cousins’s lone game against Green Bay last year (Sean Mannion was forced to play quarterback the second game), so the Packers would have been hard-pressed even without the anticipated upgrades under O’Connell, which makes this matchup highly interesting.

With running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen available to make plays, Cousins should keep the offense humming, but the bigger question in Minnesota is whether some of their veterans on defense have another run in them. If edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter can return from recent injuries, and cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Harrison Smith have another productive campaign in them, this defense could finally get back to form after dropping off over the past two years. If the veterans can’t hold up, Minnesota fans have to cross their fingers that the five defenders they drafted in the first five rounds contribute sooner rather than later.

Detroit’s top draft pick should certainly contribute sooner, as defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is set to inject some much-needed star power to a defense that is decidedly solid but unspectacular. The Lions are going to need more difference-makers around Hutchinson to rise to the ranks of the NFL’s best defenses, but hopefully, the former Michigan Wolverine becomes their cornerstone.

The Lions will have to wait on their other first-round pick, as receiver Jameson Williams is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the college national championship game. In the meantime, they can hope that veteran D.J. Chark can fill the downfield role in their offense. That is critical, because for all the hype around the Lions, the two main things that seem to be in their favor are (1) a potential top-five offensive line and (2) an expectation that they can’t possibly lose as many close games as last year. The second really isn’t something to build your foundation on, which speaks to the situation; Detroit added some players, but Jared Goff is still at quarterback, and this roster ultimately looks a lot like the team they fielded in 2021, when they went 3-13-1.

Things are a bit different in Chicago, though many of their fans would have liked the limited additions to have been difference-makers on offense to help quarterback Justin Fields heading into his second year. To be fair, general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus had limited resources in their first year on the job, but they also used both of their second-round picks on defensive backs rather than a wide receiver such as Pittsburgh’s George Pickens, Indianapolis’s Alec Pierce, or Kansas City’s Skyy Moore, all of whom have impressed in camp after going with picks 52, 53, and 54 in the 2022 NFL Draft.

At the end of the day, Fields won’t sink or swim based on one receiver, but a big body to complement the smooth speed of Darnell Mooney would have been a nice addition. Chicago is in the midst of a salary cap reset, so Fields will simply have to improve in the situation he’s presented. If Fields can build his poise and field processing by making good decisions in a bad situation, he could be primed to go off when the Bears add more players in 2023, but as you can probably tell from the model favoring the Bears to win zero games, Chicago isn’t projected to have the talent to compete this season.

The Professor’s Favorite NFC North Plays

The model’s expected wins number for Green Bay comes in at 10.8, a bit below the Win Total of 11 on DraftKings, but Green Bay is also favored in 14 of 17 games. A closer look at their schedule shows the slate should be easier than last year’s, and Green Bay has been 13-3 in three straight seasons with Rodgers at the helm and Matt LaFleur at head coach (the 4th loss in the 17-game 2021 season came with Jordan Love at quarterback). I’ll go ahead and take the Packers to go over 11 wins at -110.

While the model likes Green Bay to win the division, Minnesota is projected to be hot on their heels. The model projects the Vikings at 10.01 expected wins, within 1 of the Packers, and favors them in 12 games to Green Bay’s 14. Throw in the fact that Minnesota beat Green Bay in a tightly-fought contest when Cousins was on the field last year, and I like the value on the +260 price on the Vikings (break-even 27.8%) to win the North. Minnesota’s DraftKings win total recently went up from 9 to 9.5, but the -110 price on over 9.5 wins is a solid value for a team the model projects to win 10.01 games.

The DraftKings number for Chicago strikes me as high at 6.5, but at -190, it’s priced accordingly. That leaves very little edge on Chicago’s under, because while the Bears aren’t favored in any games in the current model run, the Pythagorean expected wins number of 5.39 is a reminder of how bad teams tend to stumble their way into a few wins. Chicago was bad last year, and they managed to rack up six wins; given the probable improvement on the coaching staff, there’s not much edge at -190. I’ll pass.

Premium Picks: None

Solid Value: Green Bay Packers over 11 wins, -110; Minnesota Vikings, +260, NFC North Champs; Minnesota Vikings over 9.5 wins, -110

Reasonable Long Shots: None

Wrap Up

This article broke down the AFC North and NFC North ahead of the 2022 NFL Season. You can check out the AFC West and NFC West preview here; be sure to look out for the Professor’s AFC/NFC breakdowns for the South, and East divisions on BeerLife Sports in the days to come.

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.