2011 Baltimore Ravens Team Preview and Prediction

The Baltimore Ravens are perennial playoff contenders, but as of late they have not been able to get over the hump and back to the Super Bowl. One reason for that has been their failure to stretch the field on offense, and another is that they’ve had to play exclusively on the road the last three postseasons. So this year Baltimore is looking to get a bit more difficult to defend offensively, and win enough games to be a playoff host. But playing in the same division as hated Pittsburgh, that remains a tough task.

Most sportsbooks sent the Ravens off last year at right around -130 to win the AFC North and +600 to win the AFC, with a regular-season wins over/under of 10. Baltimore started off by splitting games at the Jets and Cincinnati, won three in a row, coughed up a game in overtime at New England, went through a 3-2 stretch and then won its last four in a row to finish at 12-4, going over its wins total but losing the divisional tie-breaker to the Steelers. Which meant two things; the Ravens had to go to Kansas City on Wild-Card weekend and win, which they did, in dominating fashion; and then they had to go to Pittsburgh for a divisional-round game, which they lost 31-24, after leading 21-7 at halftime. So that’s two out of the last three years Baltimore’s season has ended with a tough loss at Heinz Field.

Playing a ton of close games the Ravens went 8-7-1 ATS last year, but 2-4 ATS when favored by a touchdown or more. And they went 7-9 on the over/unders, as Baltimore games averaged 39 total points.

Statistically speaking the Ravens only ranked 22nd in total offense last year at 323 YPG, and 14th in rushing at 114 YPG, a 24 YPG drop from the season previous. Defensively Baltimore ranked 10th overall at 319 YPG, and fifth vs. the run at 94 YPG. And they came in ninth in time-of-possession at 31:15

Overall Baltimore ranked 15th in the league in total yardage at +4 YPG, which is more characteristic of, say, a 9-7 team. The Ravens lived dangerously, winning eight games by one score or less, two in overtime.

This off-season Baltimore let go a slew of familiar names, including RBs Willis McGahee and LeRon McLain, WRs Derrick Mason and TJ Houshmandzadeh, TE Todd Heap, NT Kelly Gregg and S Dawan Landry. They then traded for WR Lee Evans, and used their second pick in the draft to take speedy WR Torrey Smith out of Maryland. Those two could combine with Anquan Boldin to create a pretty good trio of wideouts. The Ravens also signed RB Ricky Williams, although we’re not sure how much gas he’s got left in his tank.

QB Joe Flacco is coming off his best season as a pro, after completing 63 percent of his passes last year for over 3,600 yards, with a 25/10 TD/INT ratio.

The Ravens’ schedule calls for six games against teams that made the playoffs last year, plus dates at Tennessee, Jacksonville and San Diego. Overall Baltimore will play the second-easiest schedule in the league, based on last year’s W/L records.

Bodog.eu is lining Baltimore at +115 to win the AFC North this season, 15/2 to win the AFC and 16/1 to win the Super Bowl, with a wins O/U of 10.5. The Ravens have made the playoffs each of their three seasons under Coach Harbaugh, although they’ve yet to play a home playoff game over that span. But looking at scores and stats from last year we get the feeling Baltimore was fortunate to win 12 games. So while the Ravens are still tough, and should again contend for a playoff spot, we’ll play the under 10.5 on their wins total.

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Donald Phillips

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