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Ravens NFL Betting Preview

NFL Sneak Peak – The Baltimore Ravens

NFL Football Futures Betting – 2009 NFL PreSeason Analysis – Ravens Football Gambling

Some expected that the Baltimore Ravens might be in a rebuilding mode after bringing in a new coach in John Harbaugh and drafting quarterback Joe Flacco in the first round to fill a position that had otherwise unproven talent.

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However, the Ravens surprised the critics, winning eleven games (with a sizzling 12-4 against the number) and advancing to the AFC title game, where they were turned back by the Super Bowl champion Steelers.

With a more experienced Flacco at the helm, can Baltimore take things to the next level this season?

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Odds To Win AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers -225
Cincinnati Bengals +800
Cleveland Browns +900

Joe Flacco was handed the reins by accident last year, when Kyle Boller went down with an injury in training camp and Troy Smith got sick. This was considered to be something rather unfortunate by many observers, as among the quarterbacks drafted into the first round, Flacco was determined to be more of a project than the other first-round QB, Matt Ryan. Well, Flacco did not blow anyone away with his fantasy stats, but he finished respectably, completing 60% of his passes for 14 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He also became the first and only rookie quarterback in NFL history to win two playoff games in his first season.

I don’t expect that Flacco will have gaudy numbers this year either, although I’m sure they’ll expand his scope of responsibility. The Ravens don’t have what you might call a threatening set of wide receivers. The best among them are Derrick Mason, who had 80 receptions last year but has to be watched closely since he is 35 years old, and Todd Heap, who can still play a Pro Bowl-level game at tight end when healthy. To back up Heap, the Ravens signed L.J. Smith, who was with Philadelphia last year.

What they WILL do, though, is run the ball. This is a true “running back-by-committee” situation, with LeRon McClain having taken the lead last season with 902 yards on his way to the Pro Bowl. Willis McGahee had 671 yards and has probably seen better days, although he will still have plenty of work. I am looking for an increased role for Ray Rice, the second-year man out of Rutgers. Matt Birk, a Pro Bowler, strengthens the offensive line from his center position. Mcihael Oher was drafted in the first round and might find himself the starter at right tackle, which for this attack, is the key position on the O-line.

Rex Ryan was the defensive coordinator last season, but he left to take the head coaching job with the New York Jets. To replace him, Baltimore promoted from within, elevating linebacker coach Greg Mattison. He’s rather green as NFL assistants go, with only one year under his belt, but this is a veteran defense that knows what it has to do. Ray Lewis is back, and should have at least another good season in him. Tavares Gooden must step in and replace Bart Scott at one of the inside linebacker spots, but Terrell Suggs, Trevor Pryce, Kelly Gregg and Jarret Johnson are A-OK in the front seven. Cornerback Chris McAlister outlived his usefulness and was released, so the Ravens signed free agents Chris Carr and Domonique Foxworth to vie for his spot. There is little question that this defense can continue to perform at a high level.

There is no doubt the defense is viable, and one can imagine progress for Flacco. He has enough arm to stretch the field, but downfield threats to catch the ball are another question. The formula of defense and running the ball will stay in place, and the players’ respect for Harbaugh is an indication that his disciplined approach is hitting the right notes. Once again the Ravens will be good, but they will fall short of the elite teams. However, with BetUS Sportsbook posting their over/under at 8.5 wins, I would say that even at the -150 price, the “Over” is a sound play.

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