A month remains in the 2022-23 NFL betting season with the AFC’s top teams all vying to land that coveted No. 1 seed and the bye that comes with it. PointsBet Sportsbook currently has odds posted for four teams taking home bragging rights. They include the Buffalo Bills (-130), Kansas City Chiefs (+150), Cincinnati Bengals (+1000), and Baltimore Ravens (+2500). We can probably omit the Ravens from that quadrant with Lamar Jackson’s availability in question the remainder of the year and it likely to lose out to Cincinnati for the AFC North crown. That whittles the suspects down to three and I’m here to break down a path for the one team I believe represents the AFC as the top dog entering the second season.
That being Joe Burrow and the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals!
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The Bengals enter Week 15 9-4 SU and 10-3 ATS tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North standings. The Ravens currently own the tiebreaker after logging the 19-17 win and non-cover back in Week 5 way before Zac Taylor’s troops flipped the switch. Since dropping another decision to another divisional opponent on Halloween night, Cincy has gone on to win and cover the closing NFL odds in five straight against Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kansas City, and in the rematch with Cleveland.
They did so without the services of Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase for a bulk of those wins, and are now dealing with injuries to Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Samaje Perine stepped right into the backfield and didn’t allow for the offense to skip a beat in Mixon’s absence. In last week’s revenge bout with the Browns, Trenton Irwin was inserted into the huddle and made an impact with 58 yards and a score on only two receptions. This offense is deep and has proven it can get the job done even without its full assortment of weapons.
Then there’s Lou Anarumo’s defense that’s locked things down since the calendar turned to November only allowing one opponent to hit the 30-point plateau. The other four games saw it concede an average of just 17.8 points per game. Entering Sunday’s showdown with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, Cincinnati’s defense ranks No. 9 in pass DVOA and No. 13 in rush DVOA. It’s giving up just over 20 points per game overall (No. 11) and allows just 16.2 yards per point (No. 11).
This is the blueprint of a team that has the intangibles necessary to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Especially with a winner like Joey Brr calling the shots for the offense. The kids as cool as it gets under pressure as well, and he’s been under a ton of it having been thrown to the turf 38 times! It hasn’t stopped him from playing to a -0.37 EPA per play when pressured or completing over 55 percent of his passes (No. 4).
But what sells me the most on Cincinnati coming from out of nowhere to snag the AFC’s top seed is the path required to get there. Following this week’s visit to Raymond James Stadium for a game it’s favored to win by 3.5-points, the Bengals head to Foxboro to take on Mac Jones and a New England Patriots team that I’m by no means a believer in. After that, it’s a huge home clash with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills for all the Tostitos. Win that game against the AFC’s current frontrunner, and the window of opportunity will be there for the Bengals to kick the door in and snag that bye.
While Cincinnati would still need Kansas City to drop a game, it would automatically earn the No. 1 seed if it does and Cincy wins out due to taking the Chiefs down 27-24 at home back in Week 13. Regardless of whether or not any of this comes to fruition, a 10-1 payout over at PointsBet for it to go down is simply too juicy a rate of return to ignore. The Bengals are playing a championship caliber of ball right now, and it has the experience of making a deep run last season in its corner. Those are the types of traits that must be singled out this time of the year so as to put yourself in a position to rake in a nice payday!