Baltimore Ravens Predictions

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The Baltimore Ravens opened the 2012 season with an impressive 9-2 record over their first 11 games and it looked like they were going to runaway with the AFC North. Baltimore then surprisingly lost four of their final five games to finish in a tie for 1st in the division with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens 1-4 record in December had greatly lowered expectations going into the playoffs, but the Ravens weren’t listening to the critics. Baltimore would open up the postseason with a convincing 24-9 win over the Colts, before stunning the Broncos in Denver 38-35 in double-overtime. They then went into Foxborough and dominated New England 28-13 and would cap off the season with a 34-31 victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Many point to the fact of knowing this would be future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis’ final season as the key to the Ravens improbably run through the playoffs.

While the players tend to get all the credit, you can’t talk about the Ravens success without mentioning head coach John Harbaugh, who became just the third coach since the merger to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. Baltimore’s has compiled an impressive 63-30 record under Harbaugh, which is tied with the Patriots for the best record in the league during that stretch.

For years the Ravens have been primarily known as a defensive team that banked on an offense that could take care of the football and eat up the clock with the running game. That wasn’t the case in 2012. Baltimore’s offense ranked 16th in total offense (352.5 ypg) and 10th in scoring (24.9 ppg). The key to their success was the emergence of Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco and a strong ground game behind Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice. While the stop unit ranked just 17th in total defense (350.9), they were stingy when it mattered the most, ranking 12th in scoring defense at 21.5 ppg.

Last Season
AFC North
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
1st
10-6
6-9-1
3-5
3-4-1
9-7
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
16th
17th
+9
24.9
21.5
2013 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
Matt Elam (S), Arthur Brown (ILB), Brandon Williams (NT), John Simond (OLB), Kyle Juszczyk (FB), Ricky Wagner (OT)
Additions
AQ Shipley (C), Chris Canty (DE), Marcus Spears (DE), Elvis Dumervil (DE), Rolando McClain (ILB) Cary Williams (CB), Michael Huff (S)
Losses
Vonta Leach (FB), Anquan Boldin (WR), Matt Birk (C), Bobbie Williams (G), Maake Kemoeatu (NT), Ray Lewis (ILB), Brendon Ayanbadejo (ILB), Ed Reed (S), Paul Kruger (DE), Bernard Pollard (S)
Schedule
2013 Baltimore Ravens Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/5 @ Broncos
+7
0.25
9/15 Browns
-7.5
0.78
9/22 Texans
-3.5
0.64
9/29 @ Bills
-4
0.66
10/6 @ Dolphins
-1
0.51
10/13 Packers
-1
0.51
10/20 @ Steelers
+1.5
0.47
Week 8 BYE
11/3 @ Browns
-3.5
0.64
11/10 Bengals
-3
0.59
11/17 @ Bears
PK
0.50
11/24 Jets
-6
0.71
11/28 Steelers
-2.5
0.55
12/8 Vikings
-3.5
0.64
12/16 @ Lions
PK
0.50
12/22 Patriots
PK
0.50
12/29 @ Bengals
+3
0.43
Estimated Wins: 8.88

Defending their Super Bowl title won’t be easy. Overall the Ravens have a very difficult schedule, with six games against teams who made the playoffs last year, including division winners Denver, New England, Houston and Green Bay. That’s not including their two division matchups against rival Pittsburgh and the fact that they have a huge target on their back. Every team on the schedule will be looking to measure themselves against the defending champs, which makes things that much harder.

I think we are going to find out just how good the 2013 Ravens are in their six games leading up to their Week 7 bye. They kickoff the season on the road against a pissed off Denver team that will be out for revenge. Following a back-to-back home set against the Browns and Texans, they must play three of the next four on the road with the lone home game coming against the Packers. Simply going 4-3 in this stretch will be a challenge.

Things get a little easier following their bye. Baltimore has four favorable matchups at home against the Bengals, Jets, Steelers and Vikings, plus a couple of very winnable road games at Cleveland and Detroit. Whether or not they can take advantage of these six games will go a long way in determining whether they will be headed to a sixth straight playoff appearance.

While the Ravens are hoping that they will have a playoff spot locked up by the time Week 16 roles around, there’s a good chance they could go into their final two games needing a victory. Unfortunately neither game will be easy. They have to host the Patriots and go on the road to face the Bengals in Week 17. That game against Cincinnati could end up deciding who wins the AFC North.

Odds (Courtesy of Bovada)
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC
to Win Super Bowl XLVIII
8.5
9 to 1
22 to 1
Predictions

For a team that just won the Super Bowl, there’s plenty of negativity surrounding the Ravens going into the 2013 season. That’s because several of the key players who helped this team win it all are no longer on the roster. Lewis retiring was just the beginning of things to come. Starting center Matt Birk also called it quits, leading wide out Anquan Boldin was traded to the 49ers, while safety Ed Reed, corner Cary Williams and linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe all signed elsewhere in free agency. Making matters even worse, starting tight end Dennis Pita was lost for the season to an injury in the first week of training camp.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that biggest concern for the offense is how will they replace the loss of Boldin and Pitta in the passing game. There’s no question they will be relying more on talented third-year wide out Torrey Smith, but to this point he’s really only been a deep threat. More will also be expected out of Jacoby Jones, who thrived in the Super Bowl with two touchdown receptions. To try and ease the loss of Pitta they have since acquired veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. It’s going to be up to Flacco to play at high level for this unit to come close to matching last year’s numbers. On the bright side, Baltimore should once again have one of the top rushing attacks that will draw plenty of attention from opposing defenses.

Most of the attention this offseason has been how the defense is going to look without the leadership of Lewis and Reed. There’s no question not having those two in the lockerroom is a big loss, but I think people are overlooking the talent that’s on the roster. Baltimore still has one of the elite defensive lineman in the game in Haloti Ngata and have added in defensive end Chris Canty to help improve against the run. At linebacker they are going to be relying heavily on rookie Arthur Brown, Jameel McClain and Daryl Smith on the inside, but are stacked on the outside with Terrell Suggs and free agent pickup Elvis Dummervil. In the secondary they welcome back star corner Lardarius Webb, who was lost after six games to a torn ACL. They also have done a fine job of filling in the voids at safety with the signing of Michael Huff and the use of their first round pick on hard-hitting Florida safety Matt Elam.

While I don’t think the Ravens are on the same level as the team that won the Super Bowl last year, I’m not buying into the fact that this season is going to be a complete wash. Harbaugh has done nothing but win football games and I think he will have this team playing at a high level once again. While I don’t think the Ravens are going to win the division, I still think they are capable of making the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

Projections
AFC North Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
T-2nd
4-2
9-7
Over 8.5
Ravens Resources
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About the Author: Steve will be the first to tell you that College Football is his passion, but he enthusiastically follows the NFL, NBA, College Hoops, and Major League Baseball.
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