2021 AFC North odds reflect anticipated change from last year’s results. While the Steelers finished atop the AFC North in 2020 for the third time in five seasons, Pittsburgh was clearly backsliding throughout the second half of the year.
The Steelers lost four of their last five games, while the Ravens finished the regular season on a five-game win streak and the Browns finished 11-5 and beat the Steelers in the playoffs for their first playoff win since 1994. That could mark a true changing of the guard in the division, and the young Bengals are also on the rise with Joe Burrow ahead of schedule to return from knee surgery.
2021 AFC North Odds
The Steelers trail the Browns and Ravens in their odds to repeat as division champions. Pittsburgh is projected to win 9 games, while the Ravens are projected to win 11 and the Browns projected to win 10 games this season. Pittsburgh has made the playoffs in eight of 12 seasons under Mike Tomlin, but is an underdog to make it this year with +140 odds at DraftKings Sportsbook (implied 41.7% probability). The Ravens (-300, 75% implied probability) and Browns (-200, 66.7% implied probability) are expected to make the playoffs.
17-GAME SCHEDULING NOTES
AFC North teams take on the NFC North in non-conference play and the AFC West in non-division play this season. Each team has one away game at an AFC East opponent and one home game against an AFC South foe.
The 17th game for AFC East teams that was implemented by the NFL for 2021 comes at home against the NFC West:
- Rams at Ravens
- Cardinals at Browns
- Seahawks at Steelers
- 49ers at Bengals
Based on opponents’ records last year, the Steelers have the most difficult schedule in the NFL and the Ravens have the second-most difficult schedule this season. The Bengals and Browns are also in the top 10 in terms of most difficult schedules.
AFC NORTH TEAM BREAKDOWNS
The middle of their season was derailed by a COVID outbreak, but the Ravens still rallied for five straight wins to make the playoffs and achieve redemption by topping the Titans in the Wild Card round. While they lost a couple of key pass rushers in Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, the Ravens look to replace those pieces with another highly-regarded draft class, led by Penn State product Odafe Oweh.
Baltimore’s schedule features opponents that won 56.3% of their games last season. It features three primetime slots over the first five weeks, including showdowns with the Chiefs and Colts. After opening at Vegas and traveling to Denver in Week 4, the Ravens won’t be tasked with much travel following their Week 8 bye. However, they finish with tough home games against the Packers, Rams, and Steelers.
Riding a two-headed monster in the backfield and efficient play from Baker Mayfield, the Browns finished the 2020 season strongly and upset the Steelers before pushing the Chiefs in a 22-17 loss in the Divisional Round. Cleveland is getting +1600 odds to win the Super Bowl this year following a high-profile offseason in which they added Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Walker Jr. on the defensive line, and shored up their struggling secondary with former Rams DBs Troy Hill and John Johnson. They also drafted Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II at No. 26 overall.
By winning percentage, Cleveland has the easiest schedule among AFC North teams, but it’s still tough with a season opener at Kansas City and tests at the Chargers, Patriots, and Ravens ahead of their Week 13 Bye. They host the Steelers on Monday night in Week 17 in a rivalry game that could once again have playoff implications.
The Steelers stormed out of the gates with an 11-0 record last season, then proceeded to lose four of their last five games thanks to a non-existent rushing attack and injured offensive line. Mainstay center Maurkice Pouncey retired and the Steelers addressed their issues up front by drafting two linemen and TE Pat Freiermuth in the first four rounds to work in front of No. 24 overall pick Najee Harris.
Pittsburgh has the hardest schedule in the NFL in terms of opponent’s win percentage (.574) and nine of their games come against returning playoff teams. The Steelers open as 6.5-point underdogs in Buffalo before hosting the Raiders and Bengals. Their bye comes in Week 7 following a tough stretch against the Packers, Broncos, and Seahawks. Pittsburgh closes with the Titans, Chiefs, Browns, and Ravens – teams that combined for a 47-17 record last season.
Joe Burrow injected life into a listless franchise with a 13:5 TD:INT ratio and 2,688 passing yards before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 11. While the Bengals only went 2-7-1 in those games, Burrow and rookie WR Tee Higgins put on a show and now Burrow will work with former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase as well. The Bengals added four defensive linemen in the latter rounds of the draft to improve a unit that gave up the second-highest YPC (5.1) average last season.
The longshot in 2021 AFC North odds draws the sixth-most difficult schedule this season by win percentage and are projected to win six games. They have winnable games against the Jaguars, Lions, and Jets before their Week 10 Bye and will have tough sledding after their break with road games at Las Vegas and Denver, plus home draws against the Chargers, 49ers, and Chiefs.