Baltimore Ravens 2018 NFL Team Preview
2017 Record: 9-7
2017 ATS: 9-6-1
2017 Over/Under: 9-6-1
2018 Regular Season Wins Total: 8/8.5
Last year’s Baltimore Ravens were an interesting case study. They outscored their opposition by 92 points but were outgained by 20 yards per game. This resulted in the 9th-ranked scoring offense but a pitiful 305 yards per game. How did this occur? A big factor was the Ravens’ league-leading +17 turnover margin. And their historically sound special teams unit once again performed at a high level, led by the kicking of Justin Tucker and Sam Koch. In the end, turnovers and special teams play produced a ratio of +6 return touchdowns which went a long way in Baltimore’s 9-6-1 ATS mark. Oddly enough, they also trended over the total (9-6-1 O/U) despite the 29th-ranked passing offense and not one game with over 300 yards through the air.
This year’s squad doesn’t feature a great deal of change. Quarterback Joe Flacco will once again be under center after producing a career-worst 5.7 yards per pass attempt. Injuries and lack of a preseason were a factor but at 33 years old, it’s not a given he’ll return to a league-average level. There’s a buzz surrounding first-round draft pick Lamar Jackson but in watching him during the preseason, it’s clear that Flacco gives them their best chance to move the football.
As a team, the Ravens were hit hard by injuries the last few years. Heading into 2018, the outlook is brighter, most notably the activation of Marshall Yanda from the PUP list. Yanda played in just two games a season ago. His veteran presence and talent remain of utmost important for an offensive line that is razor thin. The one glaring difference will be at the receiver and tight end positions with last year’s top three pass catchers now gone. Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown were brought in along with two tight ends drafted in the first three rounds. The running game behind Alex Collins (973 yards, 4.6 ypc) should prosper even more assuming Flacco can remain healthy.
Last year’s defense performed like a top-10 unit and returns virtually every key player including run stopper Brandon Williams who missed four games. The suspension of cornerback Jimmy Smith is the one glaring issue. The Ravens do feature a change at the defensive coordinator position as Dean Pees left for Tennessee. The team promoted in-house with Don Martindale expected to employ a more aggressive approach. Note that while last year’s defense led the NFL in takeaways, the list of opposing quarterbacks (DeShone Kizer, Brett Hundley, Tom Savage, Matt Moore and EJ Manuel) was favorable. This year, matchups against Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers suggest fewer miscues to capitalize on.
It’s a bizarre team to predict based on last year’s extremes of turnovers and offensive ineptitude. A healthy Baltimore Ravens has the potential to eclipse their team over/under win total of 8/8.5. Bettors should keep an eye on the chemistry of Flacco and his almost entirely new receiving corps. Reports from the offseason and preseason were positive and suggest the offense is poised to see a big uptick in production.