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Baltimore Ravens the punt to make in tight AFC North battle

| 02.08.2014

A look through Ladbrokes’ NFL divisional markets should be all the research that’s required to learn that most of the eight sections of the sport’s geographical split are one-horse races.

Five of the market leaders are priced up at 1/1 or shorter to win their division, while the defending Super Bowl Champions (the Seattle Seahawks at 11/10) are among the three odds-against favourites.

So far, preseason action hasn’t hinted that any of the above six sides will be overthrown when the regular season draws to a conclusion, making the wide-open AFC North the best market to explore for value, over the tighter NFC East.

The top three are basically inseparable. Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are handed slim favouritism, at 2/1, while the Baltimore Ravens, who are by no means out of the running, are at 9/4.

It’s actually the 2012 champions’ outsiders tag that should be sided with at this stage, following a 3-0 record during warm-up season which includes a 23-3 toppling of the well-fancied San Francisco 49ers.

The Bengals are the AFC North title holders, but have questions marks over their resilience after three straight seasons spent losing in the playoffs’ first round.

With the division the tightest to call in the NFL, it’s quite easy to see quarterback Andy Dalton and the Bengals folding in the fight for top spot.

The Steelers’ claims to be the division’s best are reasonable, but with an ageing group in their defence’s secondary and two losses in their first three pre-season games, there’s also reason to swerve them.

While the Ravens aren’t without their problems, they will be without a senior running back until week three of the regular season, there’s is still the strongest case for AFC North supremacy.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.