The Baltimore Ravens are coming off their worst season since 2006 and their first losing season since John Harbaugh took over as head coach. This is an aging club that broke down due to injuries in 2015 as quarterback Joe Flacco missed six games and defensive leader Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles in the season opener and missed the rest of the season. Despite the majority of their core players being on the wrong side of 30, they’re a proven Sportsbook under Harbaugh when healthy and could be a sleeper team entering the 2016 season.
Add veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr. to the list of players returning from a season-ending injury. Smith played in just five games last season, but surprised everyone — and rewarded fantasy owners — when he put up 137 or more receiving yards in three of the games. Smith will be paired with former stud receiver Mike Wallace who returns to the AFC North in hopes of revitalizing his career. Wallace has been in pass-conservative offenses the past few seasons and could once again become an elite deep-ball threat in Baltimore’s vertical passing scheme.
With its vets back in the mix, they could return to the winning ways of the Harbaugh era, or the wheels could once again fall off if they can’t bounce back from an injury-riddled 2015. The risk is certainly worth the reward for this club though, as they offer excellent value in futures markets.
Here’s a look at their odds for 2016:
Super Bowl +4000 and AFC Title +1800
If Baltimore can make it to the dance, watch out. They have a 10-5 playoff record under Harbaugh and have never had a one-and-done playoff appearance. So then, the question becomes — can they make the playoffs? They’ve only missed the playoffs twice in Harbaugh’s eight seasons as head coach and never in back-to-back seasons. Also, the AFC North has produced at least one wild-card team in seven of the last eight seasons, so if you’re not feeling the Steelers or Bengals this season, you should probably plug the Ravens in as one of your six AFC playoff teams.
Of course, they’ve only won the AFC title and Super Bowl once in the last eight years, but that was as a wild-card team. There’s definitely a lot of ‘ifs’ around this team, but their price tag in both markets is reasonable given their past success and experience.
AFC North +350
Behind both the Steelers and Bengals on the odds board, the AFC North is one of the NFL’s most competitive divisions which the three teams seem to take a turn winning each season. Over the last 10 seasons, Pittsburgh has four division crowns, while Cincy and Baltimore have three apiece. The Ravens haven’t won the division since their Super Bowl-winning season of 2012. Getting back there might come down to how they do in head-to-head matchups with the Steelers and Bengals. They’ve been getting it done vs Pittsburgh — winning four of the last five matchups — but they have to improve vs Cincy this season as they’ve dropped five straight to them.
OVER/UNDER Win Total 8.5
Since John Harbaugh took over as head coach in 2008, the Ravens have gone OVER 8.5 wins six times. We know last year they were ravaged by injuries and won just five games, but they’ve averaged 9.6 wins per season under Harbaugh. Taking a look at their schedule, they’ll have an excellent opportunity to rack up some wins early, as the only 2015 playoff team they’ll face in the first seven weeks is the Redskins. After the bye, they have a handful of winnable games vs the Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins and Eagles. Overall they have eight games vs teams who had losing records in 2015. Given these factors, I like the OVER.
John Harbaugh for coach of the year +3300
Harbaugh’s name has been dropped an awful lot in the article, and rightfully so as he’s one of the best coaches in the league and his results prove it. A coach of the year award still eludes him, but this could be his year. A common theme among recent Sportsbooks has been bouncing back after a down season. Last year’s Sportsbook, Ron Rivera went from 7-8-1 in 2014 to 15-1. Rivera also won it in 2013 after improving from 7-9 in 2012 to 12-4. John’s brother Jim won it with the 49ers in 2011 after the team improved from 6-10 to 13-3 under his leadership. The list of award Sportsbooks is full of similar examples, so if you think the Ravens rebound from a poor 2015, Harbaugh should be near the top of your list for coach of the year.
Odds as of August 30 at Sportsbook