Time to Fade the Baltimore Ravens?
November 11, 2020
The Baltimore Ravens looked like a great bet to win the AFC and possibly even the Super Bowl last season. With how they bulldozed their way through the competition after two early-season losses certainly made them look like a good bet.
They did not do it to everyone, of course, but when a team beats eight of its last ten opponents by double-digits—well, it is safe to say they bulldozed the competition.
Heading into the playoffs, fans who had bet on them to win the AFC and/or Super Bowl had to feel good about their chances.
That is until Derek Henry ran roughshod over the Ravens defense and the Tennessee Titans knocked them out in the divisional round.
Disappointing? Of course, but it also meant the Ravens were in the hunt and a Super Bowl contender. With the team coming back in 2020 mostly intact, hopes were high for the Ravens coming into the season.
So far, they have not been disappointing. Halfway through the season, the Ravens are 6-2, with five of those wins coming as dominant, double-digit victories. As for their losses, one came against the Kansas City Chiefs (Week Three, 34-20). The other came a couple of weeks ago to the Pittsburgh Steelers (28-24).
It sounds like the season is going well for the Baltimore Ravens. With that being the case, why fade them?
Have Defenses Figured Out the Baltimore Ravens?
Losing to the Chiefs and Steelers is not exactly something to be ashamed of; they are two of the best teams in the NFL, after all. On the offensive side of the ball, they are still the best rushing team in the NFL and one of the top-scoring teams as well (eighth; 28.4 points/game).
Those numbers and the passing game numbers are less than what the team was doing last season. But the defense has been up to the task, so it has not mattered. At the midway point of the season, they have the No. 1 scoring defense (17.8 points/game).
It sounds like things are going great for the Ravens this season. If so, then what is the problem?
According to quarterback Lamar Jackson, defenses know what they are doing and calling out the play at the line of scrimmage. He said as much during a recent appearance on the Rich Eisen Show:
“They’re calling out our plays, stuff like that. They know what we’re doing. Sometimes stuff won’t go our way if they’re beating us to the punch.”
Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman brushed off defenses calling out plays as part of the chess match that goes on during a game. Sometimes defenses are right when they do so, but sometimes they are not.
However, with the Ravens dropping from the No. 2 offense (total yards) to No. 23 this year, the possible predictability has to be concerning.
But that is not the only issue. Lamar Jackson has not evolved as a passer. As teams get better at defending against the Ravens run game, Baltimore will have to lean on Jackson and the passing game more.
When the team can pick and choose when they throw, allowing them to control the passing game, he does not do a bad job. But when they need him to come through in the clutch and win a game with his arm (i.e., the Steelers game), they cannot count on him.
So—How Should You Bet?
With the strength of their defense and the power in their run game, the Baltimore Ravens will win a lot of games during the regular season. Even if teams know the plays, they still have to stop them—and many cannot.
DraftKings has their win total set at 12, so they need to win seven of their last eight to cover the over. Beating New England, Dallas, Cleveland, Jacksonville, the Giants, and Bengals should not be too hard. However, the Steelers and Titans games could go either way.
It is not hard to see them splitting those two and covering the over (+113), but the under may be the safer bet (-137).
As for the AFC North, to have a chance, the Ravens (+275) must beat the Steelers (-400) in a couple of weeks and get some help. While the Dallas Cowboys showed last week that the Steelers are indeed mortal, Pittsburgh still came out on top.
The Bills and Colts could give the Steelers a good fight, but Pittsburgh will be favored to win both. It may be better to pass on the Ravens winning the AFC North. But they will make the playoffs (Yes -3335; No +1200). Fans can count on that.
However, they will be hard-pressed to win the AFC Championship game (+500) and make the Super Bowl (+900). If the playoffs were to start this week, they would face the Titans in the wild card round. It is a game they can win, but they are far from a lock to do so.
If they do, they will probably get the Steelers in the divisional round—again, a winnable game but far from a lock. Should they win that one, they will face the Chiefs in the AFC title game. While that will be a fun game to watch, the Ravens are not going to win it.