Odds say AFC North looks like two-horse race

Posted July 24, 2012 @ 2:54 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

The Ravens and Steelers have tied for the AFC North title the past two seasons, with Baltimore winning the head-to-head tiebreaker in 2011 and Pittsburgh winning on the basis of a better division record in ’10.

As has been the case recently, it appears there is not a lot separating these two entering 2012.

Look no further than the division odds at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino's SuperBook, where Baltimore and Pittsburgh were 6-5 co-favorites to win the AFC North as of Monday. At the Caesars Entertainment sportsbooks in Las Vegas, the Ravens were 11-10 favorites in the North, with the Steelers just a tick behind at 6-5.

The Steelers, who have a widespread and passionate fanbase, are generally popular with the betting public. Jay Kornegay, the vice president of race and sportsbook operations at the SuperBook, said more tickets have been written on Pittsburgh to win the division than Baltimore. In fact, Cincinnati (4-1) and Cleveland (25-1) also have garnered more AFC North-title support at the betting window than Baltimore, which has received “very little support” from a division-winning standpoint to date, Kornegay said. Also, LVH has written almost twice as many tickets and has taken a little more than twice as much money on the Steelers to win Super Bowl XLVII compared to the Ravens, according to Kornegay, who said he believes Pittsburgh is the better team.

Despite the discrepancy in bets, the Steelers and Ravens are both 14-1 to win the Super Bowl at the SuperBook. Moreover, the Ravens are 12-1 to win the Super Bowl at the Caesars books off a 15-1 opening line, with the Steelers now 15-1 after opening at 12-1. Caesars oddsmaker Todd Fuhrman sees the Ravens and Steelers as “clear-cut” favorites in the division and has “taken what we’ve expected” in Super Bowl bets on both sides.

The Bengals are perceived as the strong third choice in the AFC North — the primary alternative to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. However, the Bengals “haven’t attracted a whole lot of attention” from bettors, Fuhrman said. Cincinnati is 7-2 to win the North and 30-1 to win the Super Bowl at Caesars.

Kornegay expects Cincinnati, a surprise wild-card team in 2011, to take a small step back this season. He pegs the Bengals, 50-1 to win the Super Bowl at LVH, to win 7-8 games, calling them a “solid young team.”

The Bengals aren’t drawing much in the way of Super Bowl bets, however. In fact, the SuperBook has taken more Super Bowl bets on the Browns, who are 200-1. Both rank among the least popular clubs with Super Bowl bettors at the SuperBook, Kornegay said.

But say this much for the Browns — they have received some respect from professional bettors, Kornegay said. Sharp money pushed Cleveland’s regular-season win total from 4½ to 5 at the LVH. The Browns have the same total at Caesars, where they are 20-1 to win the division and 125-1 to win the Super Bowl.

Kornegay believes the Browns will be severely challenged during the early portion of their schedule, which looks tougher than a season ago.

“I don’t know how a team can have so many question marks year after year,” he said.

Here are projected regular-season win totals for AFC North teams at the LVH SuperBook and the Caesars Entertainment sportsbooks as of July 23. The vigorish on the Over and the Under for each total is listed from left to right, respectively, for each club.

Team                        Caesars                        LVH

 

Baltimore             10 (-105 / -125)          10 (+105 / -125)

 

Cincinnati            8 (-110 / -120)            8 (+110 / -130)

 

Cleveland             5 (-120 / -110)            5 (-110 / -110)

 

Pittsburgh           10 (-115 / -115)         10½ (+140 / -160)