If you like it when the Baltimore Ravens are the underdogs, you probably should stop reading right now. The Ravens continue to be the trendy pick this offseason to win the AFC North.
Football Outsiders selected the Ravens to win the division in its unofficial projections Monday, which comes a week after the online sports gambling website Bovada made Baltimore the favorite in the AFC North.
The Ravens are predicted by Football Outsiders to finish 9-7, which would edge the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals by one game. The Cleveland Browns are expected to end up in their usual spot at the bottom of the standings with a 5-11 record.
Football Outsiders came up with these projections by starting with its Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and then accounted for last year's injury numbers, major free-agent moves and a few other indicators.
This projection falls in line with what many analysts are thinking. The AFC North should once again come down to a close race between the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. Baltimore is now a popular choice for good reason. The Ravens had arguably the best draft in the division (some of my colleagues would disagree), and they finished one game behind the division champion Steelers despite a bad run of injuries at cornerback.
If the Ravens can get production from their top two rookies (wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams) and stay healthy at cornerback, Baltimore should be regarded as the team to beat in the AFC North. The Steelers are going through a transition on defense, and the Bengals still have erratic Andy Dalton at quarterback.
In taking Football Outsiders' projections one step further, the Ravens would play host to the New England Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. Football Outsiders has the Miami Dolphins winning the AFC East if Tom Brady is suspended multiple games. This would mark the first time the Ravens would play a postseason game against the Patriots in Baltimore, where I'm fairly certain the pressure of the footballs will be checked thoroughly.