The Baltimore Ravens were defeated in the AFC Semifinals by the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, 35-31 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. So can the Ravens get to the AFC Championship Game this season or maybe even Super Bowl 50?
Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Blackbirds proved, once again, that his scrappy team can hang with anyone, anywhere at any time. But with the Pittsburgh Steelers in their own AFC North Division and the Patriots, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts all also looking to capture the AFC title, it could be hard for Baltimore to win the AFC. Let’s look at some tough games on the 2015 schedule, who’s new and make a couple Picks from the various markets.
Blackbirds Singing in the Dead of the NFC North?
The Baltimore Ravens (25/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) may be the scrappiest, most perennially underrated in the NFL, and yet in the image of fiery Head Coach John Harbaugh, (20/1, AP NFL Coach of the Year, 5Dimes) this team keeps overachieving and impressing and ruining things for other teams in the AFC. And trying to do that again this season may be harder for Baltimore (10/1 to win AFC, PaddyPower). Why? First off, the Ravens play in the nasty AFC North, probably the toughest division around these days, home of three Playoff teams last year—these Ravens (10-6 in 2014), the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) and the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1)—who all had double-digit Wins. And for a couple of weeks, the AFC North—which also includes those lovable Cleveland Browns (7-9, L5)—had all 4 teams having winning records fairly deep into the season, while the NFC South struggled on the opposite end of that Yin Yang spectrum, finishing with all 4 teams with sub-.500 marks. Secondly, the Ravens (+175 to win AFC North, Ladbrokes) have a nasty schedule this season, with those 6 divisional tilts against the Steelers, Bengals and Browns as well as games against the Denver Broncos (12-5 overall), Arizona Cardinals (11-6), Miami Dolphins (8-8), San Diego Chargers (9-7) and Seattle Seahawks (14-5). No small feat. And third, Baltimore lost some talent when guys like WR Torrey Smith (49ers) and TE Owen Daniels (Broncos) left via Free Agency, NT Haloti Ngata (Lions) was traded and team legend S Ed Reed decided to finally Retire. Few teams lost as much as the Ravens have this Offseason. So even getting back to the AFC Championship Game and maybe getting a rematch with the Patriots and a shot maybe to make it to Super Bowl 50 will depend on new players gelling with some vets like Flacco, durable WR Steve Smith and LB Terrell Suggs.
On Offense, dependable QB Joe Flacco (12/1 Regular Season MVP, 5Dimes) will again lead a hopefully balanced attack for Baltimore with RB Justin Forsett being the main back and now the only WR named Smith making the clutch catches downfield. With Reed gone, LB Suggs should take over the leadership role on the Ravens Defense, a unit which will should keep them in most of their games this season. The Ravens were tied for 14th in the NFL last season in Turnover Differential with a +2, and to get a little farther in the postseason, maybe upping that to a +7 or more would help Harbaugh the Mellower’s team. And a bettor’s note: The Trends (below) reveal that Baltimore has surprisingly been pretty crappy ATS within own AFC North of late, believe it or not. As usual, this Baltimore Ravens squad will be one gritty team nobody wants to see coming up on their schedule in the coming week.
Ravens QB Depth: Joe Flacco—Matt Schaub—Bryn Renner—Jerry Lovelocke
Who’s New and Could Have an Impact? Free Agent Backup QB Matt Schaub (Raiders), Rookie WR Breshad Perriman (Central Florida), Rookie TE Maxx Williams (Minnesota), Rookie DT Carl Davis (Iowa), Rookie DE Za’Darius Smith (Kentucky), Rookie RB Javorius Allen (USC), Rookie CB Tray Walker (Texas Southern), Rookie TE Nick Boyle (Delaware), Rookie G Robert Myers (Tennessee State), Rookie WR Darren Walker (Georgia Tech)
Who’s Gone From Roster? S Ed Reed (Retirement), WR Torrey Smith (49ers), NT Haloti Ngata (Lions, Traded), TE Owen Daniels (Broncos), WR/KR Jacoby Jones (Chargers), NT Terrence Cody (Released), C Gino Gradkowski (Broncos, Traded), RB Bernard Pierce (Jaguars, Released)
Possible Losses on Schedule: Week 1: @ Broncos; Week 4: @ Steelers; Week 7 @ Cardinals; Week 12 @ Browns; Week 13 @ Dolphins; Week 13 Seahawks; Week 14: Chiefs; Week 16 Steelers; Week 17: @ Bengals
Some Good Potential Betting Spots in Regular Season: Backing the Ravens in Week 2 when they play the Oakland Raiders at the O.co Colisuem is advised as Baltimore is 9-2 ATS L11 against Oakland, although this will be the first meeting between the two teams in over 10 years. Also, backing the Ravens on the Road in Cleveland in Week 12 is recommended as Baltimore is 6-1 ATS in the L6 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland and beat Cleveland, 23-21 as 1½-point favorites last season, covering the point spread by a mere ½ point. And also, betting on Baltimore the following week in Week 13 at Miami gardens against the Dolphins, possibly as slight underdogs, is advised as the Ravens are 5-0 ATS L5 vs Dolphins and 5-1 ATS them in the L6 meetings at Sun Life Stadium.
Sarcastic Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl 50 Matchup and Odds to Make You Smile: Baltimore Ravens vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1,025/1 (5Dimes)
Any Good Ravens Futures Bets Now? The Ravens Regular Season Team Win Total is posted at 9 (Over and Under -110, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), and it seems The Tackling Edgar Allan Poes will probably finish the Regular Season 9-7, 10-6 or 11-5 maybe, so the Over is the slight lean although the number is spot on, as usual. The AFC North will likely be a toss-up again between these Ravens and the Steelers with the Bengals possibly on the downswing somewhat, and there is little value in that marketplace. However, betting the AFC North to Win the Super Bowl (10/1, 5Dimes) in the niche Super Bowl Divisional marketplace with the Ravens-Steelers probably having the best 1-2 chance in the NFL right now seems like it could hold some value, although none of the top four teams Oddsmakers and Logic say will win the Super Bowl—the Patriots (AFC East), the Colts (AFC South), the Seahawks (NFC West) or the Packers (NFC North), call this AFC North division home. This is a good bet for the guy or girl who loves both the Ravens or Steelers much and thinks they could beat the Seahawks or Packers in a possible NFL championship game in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on February 7.
Recent Relevant Trends: Ravens 5-0 ATS L5 vs Dolphins, 5-1 ATS L6 on Road at Miami; Ravens 6-1 ATS L7 Away at Cleveland but 1-4 ATS L5 Home vs Browns;; Ravens 9-2 ATS L11 vs Raiders; Ravens 8-3 ATS L11 vs Broncos; Ravens 3-1 ATS L4 vs 49ers but 1-3 ATS L4 at San Francisco; Ravens 1-4 ATS L5 vs Steelers; Ravens 1-4 ATS L5 vs Bengals; Ravens 1-4 L5 ATS vs Cardinals; Ravens 1-3 ATS L4 vs Jaguars but 3-1 ATS L4 vs Home in Baltimore
Players to Watch: LOLB Terrell Suggs, QB Joe Flacco, WR Steve Smith, Rookie WR Breshad Perriman (Central Florida), Rookie TE Maxx Williams (Minnesota), Rookie DT Carl Davis (Iowa), Rookie DE Za’Darius Smith (Kentucky), Rookie RB Javorius Allen (USC), Rookie CB Tray Walker (Texas Southern), Rookie TE Nick Boyle (Delaware), Rookie G Robert Myers (Tennessee State), Rookie WR Darren Walker (Georgia Tech), S Kendrick Lewis, DE Chris Canty, DE Lawrence Guy, RB Justin Forsett, QB Matt Schaub, WR Marlon Brown, CB Kyle Arrington, TE Crockett Gilmore, K Justin Tucker, CB Lardarius Webb, NT Brandon Williams
Bet on Baltimore Ravens in Regular Season: Week 2—on Road at Oakland Raiders (Ravens 9-2 ATS L11 vs Raiders); Week 12—on Road at Cleveland (Ravens 6-1 ATS L7 Away at Cleveland); Week 13—on Road at Miami (Ravens 5-0 ATS L5 vs Dolphins, 5-1 ATS L6 in Miami)
Baltimore Ravens-Related Futures Book Bet: AFC North to win Super Bowl, 10/1 (5Dimes)