- Win Over/Under: 8.5 (-120/+100)
- Make AFC Playoffs: +110 (48%)
- Win AFC North: +300 (25%)
- Win AFC Championship: +1200 (8%)
- Win Super Bowl: +2500 (3.9%)
The Action Network’s Projected Wins: 8.72 (12th)
Around the turn of the century, the Ravens made a deal with the devil: One Super Bowl win with a subpar quarterback named Trent Dilfer and another with a subpar quarterback to be named later.
The latter was realized when Joe Flacco raised the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the 2012 season.
After a two-year grace period — during which time Flacco’s adjusted net yards per attempt peaked at none other than 6.66 — the Ravens began paying back interest, including a 2017 season that saw his average completion gain fewer yards than any other quarterback in a decade.
The key question heading into 2018 seems to be: “How long can Flacco’s numbers keep dancing to ‘How Low Can You Go’ (which fittingly came out the same year he posted his best passer rating in 2010) before John Harbaugh turns to Lamar Jackson?”
But things might not even come to that.
Because the Ravens defense keeps making every quarterback it faces look like … well, Joe Flacco.
The unit finished No. 1 in takeaways and No. 6 in points allowed and was one of only five teams to pick off more passes than it allowed touchdown passes. Most importantly, it afforded the offense the second-best average starting field position in the league — more than six yards beyond where it allowed opponents to start.
This allowed the Ravens not only to stay in the fight but also KO opponents to the tune of a +92-point differential, which is worth 10.4 wins according to Pythagorean expectation and suggests that they should be even better this season.
More reasons for optimism include the fact that Flacco isn’t coming off a torn ACL or back injury, the Ravens will have a full year of breakout running back Alex Collins and they get back guard Marshal Yanda, who had gone to six straight Pro Bowls before getting injured last season.
When the Ravens’ win total opened at 8, there was great reason to bet it. The team has only one losing record in 10 years since drafting Flacco, and there even seemed to be some built in antifragility in that the worse Flacco played, the quicker he was likely to be replaced by a can’t-possibly-be-as-bad Jackson.
But others must have reached similar conclusions, because it has since moved to 8.5 with juice on the over and has become a much shakier proposition.
Having the floor of a push at 8 wins would have been ideal considering the offensive line is still ranked 24th by Pro Football Focus despite getting back Yanda.
The newly arranged Flacco-Michael Crabtree marriage is one between the NFL quarterback with the lowest yards per attempt over the past three years and the NFL receiver with the lowest yards per target over the past three years. As for the other signal-callers, it’s been a struggle to tell the quarterback of the future apart from the ghosts of Robert Griffin III’s past in the preseason.
The defense is not a lock to continue providing the full Flacco handicap, either. A deep cornerback corps took a hit when top corner Jimmy Smith was dealt a four-game suspension. Last year the pass rush overachieved based on its pressure rate, and the team’s No. 1 ranking in takeaways is a stat that tends to regress.
The Ravens went 0-5 against playoff teams last season, and eight of their nine wins came against losing teams. This season, they face a playoff team eight times. (And if you think the Bills shouldn’t count, then do what the NFL should have done in last year’s playoffs and replace them with the Chargers.)
The average nine-win team since 2003 has had a 53.5% chance of winning nine or more games the next season, but once you account for juice on the over, the value on betting over 8.5 wins has all but evaporated.
Lookahead lines have the Ravens as favorites six times, underdogs six times and pick ’ems three times. (No lines are projected for Week 17.) And until Jackson’s development accelerates enough to where he can land above the Tyrod Taylor-to-Nathan Peterman and Eli Manning-to-Geno Smith range on the quarterback-change Richter scale, I’d pass on Ravens futures and focus on in-season betting.
(Keep an eye out for value on the road, where they went 5-1-1 against the spread last season.)
The Bet: Pass on futures, bet in-season point spreads
Baltimore Ravens 2018 Schedule
- Games Favored: 6
- Avg. Spread: -0.6
- Strength of Schedule: 5th (1 = Easiest, 32 = Hardest)
Survivor Pool 101
- Use the Ravens: Week 3 vs. DEN, Week 11 vs. CIN, Week 15 vs. TB
- Use Ravens’ opponents: Week 4 @ PIT
Fantasy Football Outlook
- Top Pick: RB Alex Collins
- Sleeper: WR John Brown, TE Hayden Hurst
- Potential Bust: WR Michael Crabtree
Best of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+
“Baltimore is getting a little over support on their win total, but nothing too much else to report on them.”
– Westgate bookmaker Jeff Sherman to The Action Network’s Michael Leboff
Lookahead Lines Undervaluing Baltimore in Weeks 1 and 2
I think the Ravens will blow the door off the Bills in Week 1. John Harbaugh is 8-2 in home openers, and rookie quarterbacks in Baltimore are 1-9 over the past 10 years, combining for four touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Raybon mentioned value on the Ravens on the road, and considering I think the Bengals will lose at Indianapolis in Week 1 and spark an overreaction that will tilt the spread toward the Ravens, I want to lock in a pick ’em for Baltimore at Cincinnati in Week 2.
It’s a game I know the Ravens have circled after being eliminated from the playoffs on a last-second miracle by the Bengals. – Stuckey
Joe Flacco Over/Under 15 Interceptions? (-125)
This prop seems like a slam dunk thanks to competing theories that both point to the under: (1) Flacco could be motivated after the Ravens traded up to draft Jackson in the first round, similar to what we saw out of Alex Smith last year when the Chiefs selected Patrick Mahomes; or (2) Flacco could be benched for Jackson if the veteran struggles and is throwing interceptions at a high rate early in the season.
It’s also worth noting that Flacco has thrown more than 15 interceptions only once in 10 seasons. I love the game theory involved with this prop; it’s hard to see a scenario that doesn’t lock it in as a winner. – Sean Koerner
The Bet: Under 15 Interceptions
Alex Collins Is Right at Home in DFS Lineups
Collins parlayed an average of 16.7 rushes and 3.8 targets per game from Week 8 on last season into a top-12 fantasy ranking during the months of November and December.
The talented soon-to-be 24-year-old proved to be a handful for any defense, as he ranked among the top four backs in rushes of 15-plus yards as well as yards after contact per rush, according to Pro Football Focus.
Like many running backs, Collins does his best work at home. According to the FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, he greeted visiting opponents with a +4.7 average Plus/Minus and 71% Consistency Rating. – Ian Hartitz