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AFC North NFL betting preview: Three-way fight offers value

The more things change, the more they stay the same – at least in the AFC North. Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh will again be in a three-way race for the postseason come winter while Cleveland, despite those fancy new uniforms, will bring up the rear in the division.

Art Aronson of AAA Sports breaks down the best ways to bet the AFC North this upcoming NFL season:

Baltimore Ravens (2014: 10-6 SU, 7-8-1 ATS)

Odds to win division: 5/4
Over/under total: 9

Why bet the Ravens: You always get your money’s worth with the Ravens, who are just two years removed from a Super Bowl title and have made the playoffs six of the last seven years. They completely rebuilt their defense post-Ray Lewis and were No. 8 in the league last year.

Why not to bet the Ravens: Baltimore had trouble in the secondary last season, and as training camp gets under way it’s uncertain whether that issue has been fixed. And QB Joe Flacco is the typical box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.

Season win total pick: Under 9

Cincinnati Bengals (2014: 10-5-1 SU, 8-7-1 ATS)

Odds to win division: 12/5
Over/under total: 8.5

Why bet the Bengals: If receivers stay healthy, we may finally get a definitive judgment on QB Andy Dalton. Dalton has two quality RBs (Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard), playoff experience and coaching staff stability. All the elements appear in place for another solid season.

Why not to bet the Bengals: Four straight first-round playoffs losses speaks volumes about a team that seems to turtle when the real bullets starting flying. They seem isolated, much better than non-playoff teams in the AFC but nowhere good enough to make a deep playoff run. Badly in need of a jolt of adrenaline.

Season win total pick: Over 8.5

Cleveland Browns (2014: 7-9 SU, 9-5-2 ATS)

Odds to win division: 20/1
Over/under total: 6.5

Why bet the Browns: Cleveland was actually pretty good for much of last season, sitting at 6-3 before losing every game played after Thanksgiving. The Browns have a strong offense line and a solid defense, and those two things help bring consistency as they search for offensive playmakers.

Why not to bet the Browns: Well, there’s that nagging quarterback thing, They’re stuck with Johnny Manziel, and Brian Hoyer has departed. That leaves journeyman Josh McCown. Ouch. Adding to the problems is the fact that the team needs to rid itself of the stink of that 2014 seven-game season-ending losing streak.

Season win total pick: Under 6.5

Pittsburgh Steelers (2014: 11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS)

Odds to win division: 2/1
Over/under total: 8.5

Why bet the Steelers: Mike Tomlin says the Steelers offense could be the best in the league. He has a point. Pittsburgh managed to keep the entire offense together after averaging more than 411 yards in total offense last season. Ben Roethlisberger is still a tough-as-nails QB who appears to have several good seasons left.

Why not bet the Steelers: Uncharacteristically, Pittsburgh has a weak defense – and that explains why books have such a low win total for them. The offense won’t be on the field much unless Pittsburgh improves a run defense that gave up 4.4 yards a carry to opposing ball-carriers last year.

Season win total pick: Over 8.5