AFC North: Gambling Impact News
Between the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, there are three teams in the AFC North that have a legitimate claim to the divisional crown. Let’s take a look at all the news that’s occurring around the division and how it could impact gambling next season.
Le’Veon Bell Establishes Himself in Pittsburgh
Though he was a second-round pick, there are big expectations for Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell. He was one of the most sensational players in college football last season, and could help a Pittsburgh team that has been sorely lacking any kind of ground game over the past several seasons.
“In the fourth quarter, that’s grind time,” Bell said. “That’s when you have to bring it home. That’s when you know your team is going to look to you to make plays, and that’s something you look forward to. You have to take pride in that and get the job done.”
“You got to go out there and compete,” Bell said. “I’m not saying I’m going to be a starter. I’m not saying anything. I’m just going to do the best that I can.”
Though the team took linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round, the Steelers were insistent that they had their sights set on Bell all along.
“It was pretty clear that this was the guy that we would be most excited about being available when it came to our pick,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said.
Perhaps the best part of Bell’s integration into the Steelers’ offense is his own fandom. Bell and his family, from Ohio, grew up as a Steelers fan.
“Growing up, my family was hard-core Pittsburgh Steelers fans. I know the Steelers love revolving their offense around the running game,” said Bell. “The fact that they picked me made me very happy. I’m glad where I’m at, and I want to go out there and make plays for them.”
Geno Atkins Continues His Emergence in Cincinnati
Geno Atkins, the Bengals 25-year-old defensive lineman, had a breakout campaign last season, racking up 12.5 sacks. Many project his 2013 to be even brighter, including Grantland’s Robert Mays. If it wasn’t for the Texans’ J.J. Watt, Mays wrote:
“Geno Atkins, the Bengals’ 25-year-old, force-of-nature defensive tackle, was the best defensive player in the NFL a season ago,” Mays wrote. “His 12.5 sacks were tied for 15th most in a single season by a defensive tackle in NFL history, according to Pro-Football-Reference, but sack totals do very little to illustrate just how dominant Atkins was. His 62 total hits and hurries (as tallied by Pro Football Focus) were 13 more than the next best defensive tackle (Ndamukong Suh), and his 86 total pressures were the third most of any defensive player in the league.”
Atkins was a pure defensive force last season, and if he keeps improving, the Bengals’ D could be one of the scariest units in the entire NFL this season.
Ray Rice Talks Longevity
“Going into Year 6, you have to be smart,” Rice recently told ESPN’s Mike and Mike In the Morning. “I know I have a lot of football left , but the name of the game is longevity for me now. I’ve proved I can be a Pro Bowl player and I still know I can go out there and make many more Pro Bowls. Part of the lesson you learn is being smart and realizing you can’t go out there and do it all on your own. For me, I’m in a great situation, I’ve a got a young back in Bernard Pierce and we can share the load. But I know when it’s a crucial situation, like a fourth down or a big third down, I go out there and make as many plays as a I can.”
Bernard Pierce is one of the best young backs in the game, and wagering on Pierce prop bets, particularly as the season drags on and Rice gets tired, could be a sound investment.