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Free NFL Pick Sunday

#120 Cleveland Browns -10 over Cincinnati Bengals 12:00 PM CT

The big play offense for the Browns that has been in good form in the past month stalled last Saturday in Denver but the run defense stepped up for a big road win. Denver still had a lot at stake in that game and the Broncos still possess great defensive talent. Now 6-7-1 the Browns are a threat to finish with a winning record for just the third time since the franchise was brought back in 1999. Cincinnati is on the road the final two weeks in a lost season that started with great promise.

This is a recent rematch as Cleveland led 28-0 early in Cincinnati in Week 12 in the game where Andy Dalton’s season ended. Cincinnati has won the past four meetings in Cleveland with the Browns scoring a combined 20 points in those games but Cleveland has clearly turned the page and will likely emerge as one of the AFC favorites next summer. Jeff Driskel has looked capable leading the Cincinnati offense in recent weeks but this will be a tougher assignment and he will be without Tyler Boyd and a few other key players on offense. Conditions are favorable for late December in Cleveland and the biggest favorite price on the Browns in many years is justified.

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AFC North Staff Changes

AFC NORTH 2018 STAFF CHANGES

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Over/Under Win Total: 8

Odds to win Super Bowl: 40/1

Staff Change: Dean Pees resigned as defensive coordinator and is taking over that role in Tennessee. Don Martindale who has been the linebackers coach with the team since 2010 was promoted to the DC role for 2018. Martindale was previously the DC for the Patriots from 2006-2009.

Probable QB Rotation:

Joe Flacco

Lamar Jackson (rookie – via Louisville)

Ryan Mallett

Robert Griffin III

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CINCINNATI BENGALS

Over/Under Win Total: 6½

Odds to win Super Bowl: 100/1

Staff Change: Most of last season it was expected that Bengals would have a new head coach this season but a change of course has Marvin Lewis still leading the team. A change at defensive coordinator did occur with Paul Guenther out after four seasons (and now in that role with Oakland) while Teryl Austin takes over that role after serving as the DC for the Lions the past four seasons. Bill Lazor took over the OC position last September and was retained.

Probable QB Rotation:

Andy Dalton

Matt Barkley

Jeff Driskel

Logan Woodside (rookie – via Toledo)

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Over/Under Win Total: 5½

Odds to win Super Bowl: 66/1

Staff Change: Former Chiefs head coach and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley jumps within the division to lead the Browns as the new OC for 2018 after six seasons in Pittsburgh. Head coach Hue Jackson has been the offensive play caller the past two seasons with no one on the staff with an OC title. Haley will now take over the play calling role with former Bengals OC Ken Zampese now the QB coach in Cleveland.

Probable QB Rotation:

Tyrod Taylor

Baker Mayfield (rookie – via Oklahoma)

Drew Stanton

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Over/Under Win Total: 10½

Odds to win Super Bowl: 12/1

Staff Change: Randy Fichtner has been a Pittsburgh assistant since 2007 and he will maintain his QB coach role while being the new OC in 2018.

Probable QB Rotation:

Ben Roethlisberger

Landry Jones

Mason Rudolph (rookie –via Oklahoma St)

Joshua Dobbs

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Pointspread Previews NFL Week 1

POINTSPREAD PREVIEWS

NFL WEEK 1 – Weekend of September 9

Our preseason Annual should be in the mail in early August but here is a look at the NFL Week 1 schedule with five situational angles for the opening week in the same format that we feature in the Annual for each week of the college football regular season. Our official newsletter predictions for Week 1 will be in our September 3 issue of the Green Sheet as our opinion on these games could change but at this point here are a few things to think about looking ahead to the opening week NFL schedule.

Revenge Spot: Cleveland Browns over Pittsburgh Steelers:

The 0-16 season for the Browns was bookended with Week 1 and Week 17 losses to the Steelers. Both games were highly competitive despite the contrasting final records for these division rivals fueled by a few big mistakes from rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. Cleveland has covered in the past three meetings in this series and the Browns now have a solid veteran quarterback known for taking care of the ball in Tyrod Taylor who led the Bills to the playoffs last season. Cleveland finished last season -28 in turnovers as improvement in that area should make the Browns a candidate to improve by a handful of wins on the season  and this game will have extra meaning for Cleveland’s new offensive coordinator Todd Haley who has spent the past six seasons with the Steelers in that capacity. Always one of the league’s most popular teams the Steelers are often overvalued in the opening week, currently on a 1-5-1 ATS run in Week 1 with four S/U losses in that span since 2011 and the Steelers are 4-6 ATS in the last 10 trips to Cleveland including three S/U losses despite the contrasting results for these franchises over the past decade. Pittsburgh lost at Chicago early last season and only twice in eight games won by more than six points on the road last season.  CURRENT LINE: PITTSBURGH -5½

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Road Trip: Baltimore Ravens over Buffalo Bills:

In Week 1 the playing field is supposed to be level in regards to travel but Bills have a late week Sunday preseason Week 3 game at home before playing the preseason Week 4 game in Chicago the following Thursday. The Bills are then on the road in Week 1 facing the Ravens. While the travel mileage isn’t overly demanding for that stretch the Bills are likely to start an unproven quarterback on the road against a defense that had some success last season. Baltimore pitched three shutouts last season and had a great turnover margin despite missing the playoffs at 9-7. The overall prospects for the Ravens are discouraging this season but knowing that they will be on the road in four of the first six weeks of the season will put extra emphasis on this home opener. The Ravens are at home for the final preseason week for a favorable set-up ahead of this game and the Ravens are 10-2 S/U in the past 12 home openers, covering as well in five of the past seven instances. A playoff team from a year ago the line should remain under a touchdown with the lower scoring potential for Baltimore but it should be a favorable opening week game for the Ravens no matter who ends up starting at quarterback for Buffalo. CURRENT LINE: BALTIMORE -5½

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Historically Speaking: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over New Orleans Saints:

Tampa Bay is 16-12 ATS at New Orleans since 1981 while going 19-13-1 ATS as an underdog in this series in that span while also covering in five of the past eight meetings. The Saints overcame a slow start last season to win the NFC South and expectations are high considered one of the top NFC contenders this season by many. The Saints have lost S/U in Week 1 in six of the last seven seasons however as it often takes some time for Drew Brees and the offense to reach full capacity. There are also concerns with the big defensive improvement last season being due to some scheduling breaks. Jameis Winston is currently suspended for this game which will put the Buccaneers as an even greater Week 1 underdog but Ryan Fitzpatrick is a capable veteran and the Buccaneers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Expected to be a NFC sleeper last season not much went right for the Buccaneers last season with a hurricane postponing the Week 1 game plus injuries taking a significant toll. Tampa Bay was only -47 in scoring differential despite a 5-11 record with seven losses by less than a touchdown last season as this wasn’t a typical last place team. Week 1 teams laying 7 or more points are just 16-23-2 ATS since 2006 including just 2-4 ATS with two S/U losses the past two seasons.  CURRENT LINE: NEW ORLEANS -9½

Look-Ahead: New York Giants over Jacksonville Jaguars:

The Giants were a stronger team than last season’s 3-13 record indicated with a number of narrow misses early in the season before things spiraled out of control for Ben McAdoo. New York had terrible luck with injuries with the receiving corps decimated early in the season and new head coach Pat Shurmur steps into a pretty good situation with a team that was in the playoffs two years ago. Shurmur didn’t have success as a head coach in Cleveland but he will have an established quarterback and a promising rookie running back to go up against one of the league’s top defensive teams. Jacksonville nearly made the Super Bowl last season but gave away the lead in the AFC Championship against the Patriots. Next on the schedule is a rematch with the Patriots for the home opener and that game certainly will be the focal point of September for a Jaguars team unaccustomed to coming off a season of success and now facing elevated expectations. The Giants will catch a home underdog spread and could be a threat against a Jaguars team that can still be erratic offensively with the Jaguars just 4-4 S/U on the road last season. CURRENT LINE: JACKSONVILLE -3½

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Letdown: San Francisco 49ers over Minnesota Vikings:

Last season everything lined up for the Vikings to have a special season, with the injury to Aaron Rodgers opening the door in the NFC North while claiming the #2 seed in the NFC and knowing that the top seeded Eagles were playing with a backup quarterback in the playoffs. Minnesota looked like a team of destiny with a miracle win over the Saints sending the team to the NFC Championship with a berth to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis at stake for an incredible storyline. Things didn’t work out with a blowout loss in Philadelphia for another devastating NFC Championship result added to the depressing postseason history of the franchise. Minnesota is considered one of the top NFC threats this season with the big free agent signing of Kirk Cousins but making a quarterback and offensive coordinator change adds for some early season adjustments that could lead to a slow start plus offensive line coach Tony Sparano passed away in late July to add to the turmoil on the staff. Meanwhile San Francisco closed 2017 with five straight wins and Jimmy Garoppolo is undefeated as a starting quarterback. The 49ers featured a formidable defense late in the season particularly against the run and the underdog will be worth a look in Week 1 in a big NFC battle.  CURRENT LINE: MINNESOTA -5½

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Free NFL Pick Sunday

#118 Cleveland Browns +3.5 over Green Bay Packers 12:00 PM CT

A low favorite price to fade the 0-12 Browns will be alluring for many but the Packers are in a dangerous spot in what might be Brett Hundley’s final start. A fortunate overtime win last week at home puts Green Bay at 6-6 but the Packers were soundly out-played last week against the Buccaneers. Hundley passed for 84 yards on 3.8 yards per attempt against one of the league’s worst defenses at home and Cleveland actually features one of the best run defenses in the NFL.

That means Hundley will be asked to do more this week and he has eight interceptions in 206 attempts while also being responsible for three fumbles. With several front office moves this week the circus that is the Browns continues to have an unclear future but DeShone Kizer has shown progress and he has kept his team in games in recent weeks despite facing some of the better defenses in the league, which won’t be the case this week. Isaiah Crowell has gained 4.8 yards per rush in his last five games to offer more balance for the Cleveland offense and Cleveland has competed well in most home games.

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The final two games of the season are on the road and next week’s home finale with the Ravens is a difficult matchup as this is the game the Browns need to avoid 0-16 infamy. Against far better defensive teams the last three weeks the Browns held their own in competitive losses and after facing teams that have a combined 26-10 record in the past three home games this is the best opportunity for the Browns in some time. Three home losses this season came by just three points as the opportunity to cover is there the Browns and the two wins for the Packers under Hundley came narrowly with good fortune.

The return of Josh Gordon also make the Browns a more formidable offense while the Packers recently had to shut down Kevin King in the secondary with a shoulder injury while Nick Perry and Davon House could also miss this week’s game to really put a strain on an already struggling defense. The Packers have also failed to cover in four straight games as a road favorite as the Browns are a threat this week.

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Nelly’s has three NFL 2* Picks in this Sunday’s NFL 2/3 Guarantee for $25 – we have gone 3-0 in that package four times this season. Don’t miss the Big E’s 15* NFL Game of the Month with a 13-5 record in 15* & higher football picks this season – $15.94 pay after you win! Maximum Sports also has a guaranteed 5-game 60% offer for Sunday Week 14.

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Free NFL Pick Sunday

#265 Cleveland Browns +10 over Detroit Lions 12:00 PM CT

This could be a favorable opportunity for the Browns to break their winless start to the season. The team has had a long layoff after playing a competitive game in London while the Lions had a critical game with the Packers Monday night to close Week 9. The Lions broke their three-game losing streak with a 30-17 win on Monday but they faced a struggling Green Bay offense now forced to rely on a very inexperienced Brett Hundley.

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The Browns have the league’s best run defense allowing just 2.9 yards per rush going against a Lions team that struggles to run the ball as this game will be pinned entirely on Matthew Stafford. The franchise quarterback can win games by himself but he has accounted for 10 turnovers in eight games this season and is completing passes at a much lower rate than the past two seasons. The Browns have the superior pass defense in this game as well as this is a Detroit defense that has allowed 29 points per game the past four contests.

The Lions are on a 3-8 ATS run as a favorite of 7 or more points and coming off a pair of heavyweight primetime national TV games this could be a flat spot on the schedule in-between key division road games and playing on a short week after winning at Lambeau Field for just the second time in 27 tries. Detroit is also on a 19-26-1 ATS run as a favorite since 2012 and this 4-4 squad with marginal statistics will be a bigger favorite than any Lions team has been since 1996 if the line closes above 10.

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AFC North Preseason Preview

AFC North Preseason Preview

07/21/2016

In recent years the AFC North has been one of the most competitive divisions with 11 North squads in the playoffs the past five seasons as the division has snagged six wild card spots including taking both AFC spots in 2011 and 2014. The Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers have mostly shuffled around in the top spots in recent years with the one constant being a basement finish for the Browns. The scenario is expected to be similar in 2016 with the Browns being the only team in a major transition but there will be a lot to watch for in the North in the upcoming preseason.

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Over/Under Win Total: 8.5 (EVEN OVER, -130 UNDER)

Odds to win the AFC North: 11/4

Odds to win the AFC: 14/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 33/1

STAFF CHANGES: Former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is now the defensive backs coach with Matt Weiss moving over to linebackers coach after Ted Monachino was hired as the new Indianapolis defensive coordinator. Joe Cullen is now the defensive line coach but Frazier is a big hire for John Harbaugh’s staff as he has a lot of credibility in the league and could easily be in line for a defensive coordinator position in the near future.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Running Back

Six players are in camp for likely four spots as Justin Forsett’s lead role could be challenged. Lorenzo Taliaferro filled in admirably last season and he will get an opportunity. Veterans with experience including Trent Richardson and Terrance West will be looking to earn a backup spot while rookie Kenneth Dixon had a great career at Louisiana Tech and will be in the mix after being a 4th round draft pick.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: Tight End features four pretty big names with Benjamin Watson, Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams on board. All four could make the team with the Ravens often utilizing the tight end in the offense but that would mean trimming the roster in other spots. The left side of the offensive line has some question marks with Eugene Monroe retiring while cornerback also is likely to feature a spirited battle for the defense.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Baltimore won the Super Bowl after the 2012 season and has finished 3rd in the AFC North each of the three seasons since, although they did make the playoffs in 2014. Last season’s 5-11 campaign was the worst since Brian Billick’s final season with the team and while a lot of signs point upward for the Ravens they sit in a division with two serious AFC contenders and moving up will be a challenge. Baltimore’s schedule is favorable early in the season as this is a team that needs to take advantage with a strong start. Several key games between fellow AFC wild card candidates are in the first two months and those games could make or break the season for the Ravens.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Over/Under Win Total: 9.5 (-135 OVER, +105 UNDER)

Odds to win the AFC North: 7/4

Odds to win the AFC: 8/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 18/1

STAFF CHANGES: There was some speculation that Marvin Lewis could be let go after another playoff failure last season. That didn’t happen but offensive coordinator Hue Jackson headed across the state to Cleveland. Former quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese will be the team’s third offensive coordinator in three years. Cincinnati also lost three defensive coaches to other teams and Kevin Coyle has returned to the team to fill the defensive backs position under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Defensive Tackle

It is a good problem to have but Cincinnati has great depth on the defensive line and there should be a good battle to earn spots on the roster. Geno Atkins and Domata Peko are the presumed starters but DeShawn Williams and Pat Sims will make a push with Sims being a factor last season though his age and contract might make him expendable. Brandon Thompson might not be able to play right away coming off an ACL injury from late last season as he may be left inactive early in the season. Andrew Billings was also a 4th round pick that many graded much higher but concerns over a possible knee issue pushed the Baylor product back to the mid-rounds.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: At cornerback William Jackson III is a candidate to push for a starting spot as Cincinnati’s 1st round draft pick. Leon Hall left the team so there may be an opportunity but he will be in competition with 2014 1st round pick Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones are still on the roster. With the departure of Marvin Jones and Mahomed Sanu there are openings at wide receiver. Brandon LaFell was signed and 2nd round draft pick out of Pittsburgh Tyler Boyd will get an opportunity to earn playing time as well. Brandon Tate seems likely to maintain a spot in the offense with his experience in the offense and capability to contribute on special teams as well.

SEASON OUTLOOK: The Bengals never seem to be the AFC North favorites but they have won three of the last seven division titles while making the playoffs six of the last seven seasons. Cincinnati has been 10-6 or better in each of the last four seasons and if Andy Dalton returns to form this is a team that should be considered a serious threat in the AFC, especially with the North teams appearing to have favorable schedules as a whole this season. The early season schedule is difficult, playing on the road vs. playoff contenders in four of the first six weeks plus hosting the Super Bowl champions as the pressure will on early this year coming off last season’s miserable ending with another devastating playoff loss.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Over/Under Win Total: 4.5 (-115 OVER, -115 UNDER)

Odds to win the AFC North: 20/1

Odds to win the AFC: 50/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 100/1

STAFF CHANGES: Former Raiders head coach and 2015 Cincinnati defensive coordinator Hue Jackson will be Cleveland’s ninth head coach since the team was reactivated in 1999. Only Romeo Crennel lasted as long as four seasons and none have produced a winning record, although Butch Davis did lead the Browns to the playoffs with a 9-7 season in 2002. Former Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will be an associate head coach and will lead the quarterbacks as Jackson intends to lead the offense himself. Ray Horton was the defensive coordinator for the Browns in 2013 and he served in that role for the Titans the past two seasons. He is back in Cleveland to lead the defense for Jackson’s staff this season while Chris Tabor is a holdover running special teams.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Quarterback

The Browns resisted drafting a quarterback in April and instead signed Robert Griffin III, who starred for the Redskins in his rookie season of 2012 only to fall out of favor with the organization. Josh McCown will be a veteran option if that plan fails with Austin Davis, who is also from the 2012 draft class, in the mix as well. Davis played in a handful of games for the Rams in 2014 and also filled in with mixed results last season before the Browns turned to Johnny Manziel.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: Linebacker appears to be an area with little stability for the Cleveland defense. Rookies Joe Schobert and Scooby Wright could compete for time with free agent Demario Davis as well as the other returning players on the roster. Eyes will also be on 1st round draft pick Corey Coleman and the wide receiver position with Andrew Hawkins and Terrelle Pryor also returning while the team still will be waiting on any chance that Jose Gordon could return.

SEASON OUTLOOK: After a modestly successful 7-9 2014 season the Browns fell back to 3-13 last year and in seven of the last eight years Cleveland has failed to top five wins. They are firmly expected to struggle in the AFC North this season and likely finish back among the worst teams in the league. Cleveland does have some promising matchups in the first two months of the season as it wouldn’t be impossible for the Browns to have a competitive start if Hue Jackson can find the right mix on offense as the defense should be capable. The late season schedule looks difficult as a slow start could spell a very challenging season as the best opportunities for wins should be early in the season.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Over/Under Win Total: 10.5 (-125 OVER, -105 UNDER)

Odds to win the AFC North: 13/10

Odds to win the AFC: 11/2

Odds to win Super Bowl: 12/1

STAFF CHANGES: Keith Butler took over for Dick LeBeau last season as the defensive coordinator for the Steelers and the results were promising with a high sack and high turnover unit that was very good against the run. The staff under Mike Tomlin remains mostly intact from last season with Todd Haley leading the offense. Tomlin is actually the fifth longest tenured head coach in the league with the same team and the stability for the organization makes the team one of the AFC favorites again this season.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Safety

The secondary went through some ups-and-downs last season for the Steelers and it will be a position of interest in preseason action. Will Allen started 13 games last season for the Steelers but he was not re-signed. Robert Golden started three games early in the year at strong safety but played less late in the season although he was re-signed to a three-year deal. Shamarko Thomas has been mostly a bust for the Steelers and may be in his last opportunity to earn meaningful time on the field. Sean Davis was a 2nd round pick in the draft and the opportunity to take the spot is there.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: Kicker has been an interesting position for the Steelers in recent years as Josh Scobee was dismissed midseason last year. Chris Boswell did the job the rest of the season including hitting some big kicks in the playoffs but long-time Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham is back after missing last season due to an ACL injury. It seems likely Boswell keeps the job but Suisham will get an opportunity. Alejandro Villanueva and Ryan Harris could be in a heated battle at left tackle as the position was a weak spot for the team last season. Landry Jones and Bruce Gradkowski will also provide the Steelers with a battle for the back-up spot behind Ben Roethlisberger, who missed some time last season and seems to constantly make his way to the injury report.

SEASON OUTLOOK: As one of the most popular teams in the league and one of the most stable organizations the Steelers have almost always been considered one of the AFC favorites in recent years and that won’t change this season. Pittsburgh was very close to making the AFC Championship last season and the defense showed promising signs last season to go along with a very productive offense that should battle fewer injuries than last season. Optimism for Pittsburgh is also built on a schedule draw that many rate among the most favorable slates in the league.

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Bobby Dalton Basketball NBA & NCAA Full Season Subscription

Get all Dalton picks with daily updates from late October to mid-June covering NBA and college basketball. Dalton had huge college basketball profits last season finishing 20 games over .500 with a +134.5* profit. Dalton went 17-7 in the NCAA Tournament and 23-15 in conference tournament picks, picking up over 100* in March Madness. Bobby […]

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B.E.S.T. CBB – Full Court Season Package

2018 marks the Big E’s 13th season of handicapping College Hoops on Nelly’s Sportsline and I can’t wait for this season to get rolling! I’m looking to build off of last year’s strong regular season results after correcting a flaw in my analysis that really hurt us in 2016. Longtime players remember I have a […]

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Even though we’ve hit the February grind, we’ve still won 7 of 12 20* Conf GOYs AND I nailed my 15* GOM for Feb last week! Today, I am releasing my 20* OVC GOY as well as a 10* Biggie play for Thursday’s college hoops action! This week, I have a package that includes TWO […]

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Join the Big E Sports Ticket for a weekly subscription in college basketball – covering games from Feb. 18-24! Even though we’ve hit the February grind, we’ve still won 7 of 12 20* Conf GOYs AND I nailed my 15* GOM for Feb last week! Today, I am releasing my 20* OVC GOY as well […]

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NFL Schedule Review: AFC North

NFL Schedule Review:  AFC North

05/11/2016

The recent NFL Draft dominates the conversation in the spring but the release of the NFL schedule can often have a bigger impact on the success or failure of the season for most teams. Here is brief breakdown of the schedules for the four AFC North teams.

Toughest Opposition – RAVENS: The Ravens will draw the toughest opposition in the AFC North with four games vs. the Bengals and Steelers as well as taking on road games vs. the Jets and Patriots. The third place schedule brings Jacksonville and Oakland team to the slate but both of those squads may be pointing upwards in 2016 after stockpiling young talent in recent years of rebuilding. After the AFC North featured some of the toughest schedules in the league last season, all four schedules fall in the bottom 14 of the ratings this season. Baltimore also has three different sets of back-to-back road games as the Ravens likely have the toughest draw of the group though it should be a slate that Baltimore can manage to improve on last season’s disappointing 5-11 record.

Weakest Opposition – BENGALS: Cincinnati was the first place team in the AFC North last season but they are facing the weakest schedule based on the 2015 records in the division, drawing teams that finished just 119-137 last season. The first place draw features games with Denver and Houston, two teams that are both changing quarterbacks this season and the Bengals will play New England in Week 6 in what may be just Tom Brady’s second game. While Cincinnati’s schedule rates narrowly as the weakest among the four AFC North teams, they will make up for it with more difficult travel distances and timing than their peers in the division.

Toughest Travel – BENGALS: Giving up a home game to play in London nearly doubles the travel miles for Cincinnati as that one trip will be longer than the total travel in eight road games for each of the three division rivals of the Bengals. Cincinnati has six trips of over 500 miles on the season and they will be away from home in six of the team’s first nine games while also drawing back-to-back road games twice in the first six weeks.

Lightest Travel – STEELERS: Seven of Pittsburgh’s eight road trips will feature a distance of fewer than 350 miles as only a trip to Miami will require a significant trip as the Steelers have the lightest travel mileage in the league. Pittsburgh does have two sets of back-to-back road games including facing a Thursday night road game on the second leg of one of those sets but a well travelling Steelers fan base should have an easy time making it to some of the road games this season.

Most Exposure – STEELERS: The Steelers have four national TV primetime games lined up with two Sunday night games plus they will be involved in one of the two Christmas Day games with the holiday on a Sunday this season. Pittsburgh opens the season with a Monday night game and also will have big Sunday afternoon matchups with the Patriots and Cowboys at home in games that should get strong coverage.

Lightest Quarterback Draw – BENGALS: Cincinnati is only playing three games vs. quarterbacks that finished the 2015 season in the top 10 of the Total QBR rankings while the other teams in the division have five or six such games. Cincinnati will face Ben Roethlisberger twice as well as well as Tyrod Taylor and Tom Brady along with the rest of the division in the AFC East draw but currently Denver and Houston look a lot shakier at quarterback than returning first place teams usually do. In contrast the Steelers will have to face Alex Smith and Andrew Luck in the unique 2nd place draw games, certainly more proven signal-callers than Mark Sanchez and Brock Osweiler.

Toughest Quarterback Draw – RAVENS: Baltimore faces six games vs. the 2015 top 10 of the Total QBR rankings. They also will face road games vs. Tony Romo and Tom Brady late in the season, proven quarterbacks that didn’t crack the 2015 top 10. Blake Bortles and Derek Carr are also potentially emerging stars at the quarterback position and those are the two unique matchups that the Ravens will face compared with the rest of the division with those games back-to-back early in the season. Drawing Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger twice each gives the Ravens some tough head-to-head matchups for Joe Flacco as he returns from last season’s injury.

Toughest 1st Half Schedule – BENGALS: The defending AFC North champions will be tested out of the gate with road games in four of the first six games all vs. formidable competition. The only break in that run might be a week 4 home date with a Miami team in transition but that game is a Thursday night game on a short week after a huge home game vs. the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos for a less than ideal situation.

Weakest 1st Half Schedule – BROWNS: The Browns are in a major transition themselves with a new coaching staff and presumably a new starting quarterback as they may not be in position to take advantage of a relatively favorable first month slate. The Browns draw four of the first six games on the road but three of those games will be against teams that are also in transition with a coaching change. Cleveland has the Patriots at home in Week 5 in what could be Tom Brady’s first game of the season hoping to potentially catch the Hall of Famer with some rust. The Browns don’t have a bye until Week 13 and even though the mid-season schedule features more home games it could be a tougher stretch in the schedule with some of the season’s more challenging matchups as a decent start will be critical to avoiding another losing season.

Best Overall Schedule Draw – STEELERS: Pittsburgh drew one of the league’s toughest schedules in 2015 facing nine 2014 playoff teams. That amount is trimmed to just five in 2016 and Pittsburgh has the least travel miles in the league to go along with a schedule that rates 23rd in difficulty based on last season’s records. The Steelers have a central Week 8 bye week and they only have two road games vs. 2015 playoff teams, games that aren’t overly threatening in Washington and the division meeting in Cincinnati. The Steelers also have five games vs. teams with new head coaches this season and anything less than matching last season’s 10-win count should be a disappointment for the Steelers with a favorable schedule draw.

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