Super Bowl Picks: Ravens' Title Odds Entering Divisional Round

Nikki Adams

Friday, January 9, 2015 2:54 PM GMT

Are the Baltimore Ravens the winning Super Bowl XLIX bet? Find out as we weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of the Ravens according to the relevant and popular NFL rankings and examine the possible scenarios that could emerge from the divisional round in order to determine their chances.

Baltimore Ravens Look To Spoil the Super Bowl XLIX Party
The Baltimore Ravens enter the divisional round of the playoffs as one of the lowest ranked teams according to ESPN NFL Power Rankings and Football Outsiders popular DVOA rankings. They are 11th on ESPN's rankings, second lowest after the Carolina Panthers, but fifth in Football Outsiders Total DVOA and Weighted DVOA rankings (See Table 1). A happenstance that has them listed as one of the long shots for Super Bowl XLIX, matched at +1600 NFL odds.

Table 1: The table includes ESPN NFL Power Rankings from week 18, along with NFL regular season-ending rankings for total offense and total defense, and QBR rankings. As well, relevant DVOA rankings (Source: Football Outsiders) have been used to broaden the picture. These statistical rankings have been totalled and averaged to give us a simple hierarchy of the eight teams in the divisional round from top overall ranked to lowest overall ranked team, as shown by the Adjusted SBR Power Rankings column.

SBR Adjusted Power Rankings Table 1: 2014-2015 RANKINGS AT A GLANCE


By the numbers, the Ravens are clearly middle of the pack. Although that's hardly going to deter by them. In 2012-2013 Super Bowl playoffs they defied the NFL odds and their lowly ranking (the lowest ranked of the last 8 in the playoffs) to win the coveted title. (See Table 2).

 

SBR Adjusted Power Rankings Table 2: 2012-2013 RANKINGS AT A GLANCE
2012-2013 Baltimore def. San Francisco 34-31

Last season, the Ravens sat out the postseason after failing to make the 12-team cut. This season, they squeaked into the playoffs, part of a three-team AFC North set. In the wildcard round, the Ravens took on familiar foes, Pittsburgh Steelers, only to mastermind the first upset of the playoffs with a 30-17 win at Heinz Arena. In beating the Steelers, the Ravens improved to 10-4 on the road in the playoffs, marking the most road wins by any franchise in NFL history.

Ravens Road Warriors
Not only are the Ravens established road warriors in the postseason, two of their road wins have come at the Foxboro: 33-14 in the 2009 Wildcard Round and 28-13 in the AFC title game in 2012. Although they are 2-1 at the Foxboro in three previous postseason meetings, that slight head-to-head edge over the Patriots has alerted NFL bettors to their realistic shot at the upset in their fourth meeting since 2009, despite their perceived shortcomings according to the various established go-to rankings (See Table 1). That it involves the same two quarterbacks and the same two coaches locking horns once again, only supports this notion.

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Why The Ravens Can Win Super Bowl XLIX
One of the best reasons for the Ravens pulling off a successful bid is their ability to deal with adversity and challenges on the road. As one of the best travelling teams in the postseason, they are the quintessential dangerous floaters and by the odds a value NFL pick at +1600. This is not a team easily intimidated.

The recent experience is an added source of confidence and optimism for Ravens' backers at NFL betting shops. What's more, one can't chalk their win to a weak field in the postseason. Two years ago, they did it the hard way. After beating the Colts in the wildcard round, they went on to upset top seed Denver at Mile High (divisional round) and second seed New England (AFC Championship) at Foxboro. In the final, they beat the second seed San Francisco 49ers in the final 34-31. Denver, San Francisco and New England also ranked in the top four of most major accredited NFL ranking systems, highlighting in no uncertain terms that stats are just an empirical and quantitative approach to the broad spectrum of the playoffs and not an absolute qualitative approach.

Why The Ravens Can't Win The Super Bowl XLIX
It's worth noting the Ravens are 0-4 SU in their last four regular season meetings with the Patriots, including a 41-7 loss in the 2013-2014 season.

Critics point to a defense that isn't as good as perhaps the one that won the Super Bowl as being the weakest link. Although they are 8th in total defense, they are 23rd in the league against the pass which is a hole in the backline quarterback Tom Brady will look to exploit this weekend, surely. While the Ravens are 4th in the league against the rush and they allow on average 18.9-points per game, they've not had the pleasure of taking on Tom Brady with a healthy Rob Gronkowski in some time. That could be the deciding factor to swing the clash towards the hosts.

Playoff Scenarios
If the Ravens overcome the New England Patriots at Foxboro, as the sixth seed they can't host the AFC Championship game, which would mean a trip to Denver or Indianapolis would be on the cards. Now, they are Road Warriors, so they won't be balk at either option and fancy their chances nonetheless. It should be pointed out though their trip to Indianapolis in week 5 of NFL betting didn't go down well as they lost 20-13. In the Super Bowl, should they make it that far they could face the Seahawks, Cowboys, Packers or Panthers.

Super Bowl Betting Verdict: Having once rubber stamped their credentials as the dangerous floaters in the playoffs, it would take a really brave NFL bettor to overlook the Ravens on his/her NFL picks. That said, it would be the most impressive accomplishment in the history of the NFL postseason if they were to pull it off for a second time in three seasons as the long shots at +1600 and at the expense of the top two teams in the AFC, no less.