Betting team over/under wins, part 9: Baltimore Ravens, 10½ wins
“Well, that was fun,” said no backer of the Baltimore Ravens as J.K. Dobbins was getting carted off the field in the opening minutes of Saturday’s preseason game against Washington. In fact, in 2021, the Ravens may end up as Exhibit A in a hearing to determine the futility of expecting to win money on team futures in the preseason. Those who waited to bet on
Baltimore Ravens, over/under 10½ wins (-150/+125)
(or thereabouts) have got to be liking these odds today. Already the odds on under were too long and the win total too high. With Dobbins out of the picture for 2021, covering the over suddenly seems quite the tall task.
But, hey, every NFL team takes hits from injuries, right? And sure, Dobbins was set to fill the no.1 halfback position but this is the 20s and passing offense is everything! Besides, the 2021 Baltimore Ravens, like so often in the past, are supposed to be about defense first…
So go the protestations that might be valid about most any other of the 31 NFL teams – but these Ravens are quite the special case, indeed.
In 2021, the Baltimore defense ranked no. 2 in the NFL in points allowed and no. 7 in yardage allowed; again, quite typical of Ravens teams traditionally: Since Brian Billick stepped in as head coach in 1999, the Ravens ranked in the top-10 in both categories in 16 of the 22 subsequent seasons. Pretty impressive statistically, but note that in the 2012 season prior to winning Super Bowl LXVII, the Baltimore ranked just 12th and 17th, respectively, in the aforementioned statistical categories.
Meanwhile, the Ravens offense is about as unconventional as any we’ve seen in the 21st century. Baltimore is somehow armed with a top-10 quarterback (at very least in terms of name recognition) yet “boasted” the no 32-ranked passing offense in the NFL in 2021 – and this with the *no. 7* offense in scoring. This is of course down to the heavily-imbalanced run-pass option-based offense the Ravens and the singularly uniquely talented Lamar Jackson have been forced to adopt.
Last season, Jackson and Dobbins combined for a 1810 yards and 16 touchdowns on 293 carries – an average of 6.18 yards per carry. With Dobbins going for 6.01 ypc, the Ravens became the first team in the Super Bowl era to have two of the league’s top-3 in the stat. Add in Gus Edwards tacking on 723 yards at a 5.0 ypc clip after taking over the starting HB role for Mark Ingram beginning in game 10, and you’ve got three guys representing over 42% of all Ravens yardage *on the ground.*
Again, the reminder – and this cannot be stressed too stridently – *this is 2021*.
Edwards has signed a two-year extension and will presumably be bumped back up to no. 1 HB on the depth chart, but where will 150 more carries come from? NFLbets is more than slightly skeptical about the hot-take names like LeVeon Bell and Todd Gurley which were bandied about on NFL twitter last weekend.
The sole “skill” players of note added by the Ravens in the offseason were Sammy Watkins, primarily a deep-threat receiver for a QB who threw as many 40+-yard completions as Ben Roethlisberger, Nick Mullens and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and first-round draft pick Rashod Bateman of Minnesota. The OL got rejiggered in losing Orlando Brown, DJ Fluker, Matt Judon and Matt Skura while picking up Alejandro Villanueva, Ja'Wuan James, Michael Schofield and Kevin Zeitler. We’ll see whether the lineside shuffle works (NFLbets didn’t necessarily dig the Orlando Brown trade, but Villanueva and James are probably excellent pickups…)
But the ultra-talented and nearly as unorthodox Lamar Jackson is the alpha and omega to betting this Ravens team and the energies spent on speculation should be directed here. Forget about his so-called choking in playoff games (especially since we’re more interested in over/under wins here, anyway): The NFL bettor should be far more concerned about those 482 carries in 2½ regular seasons’ worth of games. That’s about 193 carries on average per 15 games, a pace that would have placed him 12th among all runners last season.
As it stands, Jackson’s workload was down slightly in ’20 to “just” 159. However, with Dobbins gone and no legitimate no. 2 back on the roster, the conclusion must be either that Jackson gets his totes back up to that 200-carry danger zone or that the Ravens simply fall short on offense.
In fact, as NFLbets sees things, the major improvement the Ravens are looking at for 2021 is the schedule which this far out appears to have five games against genuine Super Bowl contenders scheduled with most in the season’s second half (week 2 vs Kansas City Chiefs, week 12 vs Cleveland Browns, week 14 at Cleveland, week 15 vs Green Bay Packers, week 17 vs Los Angeles Rams) – or maybe six, depending on how you feel about the “Los Angeles” Chargers.
Thinking like this, though, is what puts the “sucker” into “sucker bet.” The NFL bettors who figured pre-Dobbins injury that the Ravens would get to at least 11 wins must honestly have believed that the roster had enough to at least reproduce last season’s results. Today, their thinking should change. Take under 10½ wins for the Baltimore Ravens.