Around the AFC North: Oddsmakers Declare Browns 2019 Division Favorites

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Browns: Baker-to-Beckham Combo Has Browns Eager For Possibilities

Baker Mayfield is one happy quarterback and Cleveland is one happy city these days. Can you blame them?

The Browns traded for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last week, adding a dynamic playmaker to an already dangerous offense. Cleveland has become the odds-on favorites to win the AFC North next season, per SuperBook.

Think about the weapons Mayfield will have surrounding him: Beckham and Jarvis Landry at wide receiver, Nick Chubb at running back, and David Njoku at tight end. Don’t forget the Browns also signed running back Kareem Hunt, who will be suspended for the first eight games.

Mayfield spent the past weekend hanging out at Milwaukee Brewers training camp in Arizona with his good friend, Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich. But Mayfield knows the city of Cleveland is buzzing about the Browns, who finished 7-8-1 last season, led by their new franchise quarterback.

Exciting time to be in Cleveland,” Mayfield told reporters on his visit to Brewers’ training camp. “It’s going to be really exciting when we go back.

“The fans there, after having a decent year, nothing that we were too happy about, were unbelievably satisfied. But now, I can’t even imagine.”

The Browns haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2002, but it’s clear their expectations will be higher next season. Mayfield sounds stoked for the challenge.

Bengals: Controversial LB Vontaze Burfict Has Been Reportedly Cut

After spending seven seasons with the Bengals, controversial veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been cut, according to multiple reports.

Burfict hasn’t played more than 11 games since 2013 due to injuries or suspensions. He was suspended for the first four games of last season for violating the NFL’s performance enhancement drug policy and has been fined or suspended 13 times.

His 33 tackles last season were his fewest since 2014, when he played just five games.

Burfict made the Pro Bowl once for the Bengals, but his over-aggressive style of play often led to trouble. In 2016, he drew anger from the Ravens for an unnecessary blindside hit on tight end Maxx Williams, which earned Burfict a $50,000 fine from the NFL.

The Bengals reportedly tried to trade Burfict before releasing him but failed to work out a deal.

Steelers: Reloading With Free-Agent Additions and Draft Picks

The Steelers’ decision to trade wide receiver Antonio Brown was their most-publicized offseason move. But after missing the playoffs last season, the Steelers have made other changes designed to make them a better team next season. 

Former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Mark Barron reportedly reached agreement Sunday with the Steelers on a two-year contract. The Steelers have also signed former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson and former Indianapolis Colts/Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Donte Moncrief. In Jacksonville last season, Moncrief had 48 catches for 663 yards and three touchdowns.

The Ravens are the defending AFC North champs, and the Browns are up-and-coming. But count ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith among those who believe the Steelers are the favorites in the AFC North.

Smith said Head Coach Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger have a lot to prove and running back James Connor proved the Steelers can still run the ball without Le’Veon Bell.

Brown is now with the Oakland Raiders. Bell is with the New York Jets. But the Steelers believe they are still a contender, and they have 10 picks in the upcoming draft, including four picks among the top 100. If the Steelers want to move up from the 20th overall pick, they should have the ammunition to do it.

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