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After Back-to-Back Seasons Out of the Playoffs, 2017 Looms Large in Baltimore

There may not have been a more average team in the NFL in 2016 than the Baltimore Ravens. They posted an 8-8 straight-up record to finish second in the AFC North. They went 7-9 against the spread, 5-5 ATS as a fave, 7-8-1 OVER/UNDER and while they did have an above-average defense, they had the 17th-ranked total offense in the league.

Entering the new season, they are pretty much a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to 2017 futures odds so it’s fair to assume we can probably expect more of the same at the betting window. Oddsmakers have posted a win total of 8.0 on the board and they have Super Bowl odds of +5000 and AFC conference odds of +2000.

The defense was far and away the strength of the team last season. It ranked seventh in total defense, ninth against the pass and fifth against the run. Impressive. But there have been some changes on that side of the ball. Gone are DT Timmy Jernigan, LB Elvis Dumervil and LB Zachary Orr. But the addition of Tony Jefferson now gives the Ravens two of the best safeties in the game along with Eric Weddle.

The offense has been a revolving door of coordinators and personnel since the Ravens last won the Super Bowl, but maybe they’ve found some stability in Marty Mornhinweg. The team canned Marc Trestman after just five games but the Ravens offense scored more under Mornhinweg.

After making playoff appearances in six of seven seasons from 2008 to 2014, there has been futility the past couple of seasons. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out this year but a lot will depend on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in the top half of that division, how well new wide receiver Jeremy Maclin settles in, if Breshad Perriman makes a leap in progression and if they can put together some semblance of a running game.

The Ravens should be an intriguing team in 2017. Here’s a look at what’s on the board for the squad in terms of season-long wagering:

Super Bowl +5000

There are plenty of reasons to avoid this wager (the Patriots being the best team in the league, the fact the Ravens have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, closing the 2016 season with two division road losses and blowing their shot at the playoffs, etc.), but there are reasons that it’s not the most outrageous pick on the board as well (uptick in wins from 2015, Super Bowl-winning quarterback, stout defense, desirable schedule, great price, etc.).

Do I think the Ravens are even contenders for Super Bowl LII? No. And this isn’t a wager that I’ll be making. But, if you’re a diehard Ravens fan or if you’re someone looking at the Super Bowl futures board for some value, well, the Ravens aren’t the worst team on the board.

We all know about the Patriots, but what’s the fun in that?

AFC North +350

Good value here and getting equal billing as the Bengals. The Steelers are pretty big faves at -150 but, obviously, for good reason. Pittsburgh won 11 games last season and has posted double-digit win totals in each of the last three seasons.

Baltimore hasn’t won an AFC North crown since its Super Bowl-winning season of 2012. Those halcyon days are long since removed and the offense seems to constantly be in a chaotic state (Mornhinweg became Joe Flacco’s fifth offensive coordinator in five years when John Harbaugh made the switch) so potentially, the new OC and the addition of Maclin offer a bit of stability.

The defense is good enough to compete for a division title but the question marks on offense will remain. The scoring saw a boost when Mornhinweg took over and if Maclin can settle in and Perriman improves (thus freeing up Mike Wallace to feast), then it should come down to Pittsburgh and Baltimore for the division title.

Win Total - 8

I alluded to a favorable schedule in 2017 for the Ravens in the above look at their Super Bowl odds and it’s true. Baltimore has the 24th-toughest schedule for 2017 as the teams it faces posted a combined record of 117-137-2 last year.

Beyond the six games against division rivals, the Ravens are looking at the AFC South, NFC North, at the Oakland Raiders and against the Miami Dolphins. When I quickly glance at this schedule, I pick out two wins versus the Browns, a win at the Jags and home wins versus the Bears, Dolphins, Lions, Colts and Bengals. Plus, there are toss-ups at the Bengals and versus the Texans. Both sides of the 8.0 wins are -115 but I’m leaning OVER 8 here.

Is the team any better or worse than last year? Well, not necessarily. A full season with Mornhinweg should be interesting. They went just 5-6 SU after he took over and the team averaged 22.6 points per game after relieving Trestman of his duties – a difference of around four points.

The Ravens allowed 20.1 points per game one season ago (ninth in the NFL) so if that remains consistent and the offense performs above expectations, an OVER 8.0 wager should hit.

Joe Flacco Most Interceptions +2500

There isn’t a ton out there for Ravens player props, so a shot at this at +2500 is about as good as it gets.

Nobody in the entire NFL attempted more throws than the Baltimore Ravens (679) last season and while Flacco attempted a whopping 672 of those (second in the league to Drew Brees’ 673), he only threw 15 interceptions. Not bad, all things considered.

Flacco’s 436 completions, 672 attempts, 64.9 completion percentage and 4,317 yards were all career highs and there’s no reason to not expect him to flirt with those numbers again in 2017. There will be some pressure on the receiving corps and tight end Dennis Pitta and his 86 catches in 2016 will certainly be missed.

The Ravens will air it out again in 2017 and I expect an uptick in Flacco’s INT numbers. The +2500 looks pretty good here.

2017 Baltimore Ravens Futures Odds
MarketOdds
Super Bowl+5000
AFC Championship+2000
AFC North+350
Win Total8

Odds as of August 26 at Bovada

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