There is no writer I respect more than Peter King of Sports Illustrated, but he has the Baltimore Ravens as the No. 1 team on his current offseason power rankings. King wrote: "Why? I trust John Harbaugh to find answers in a league devoid of a truly great team. I trust the running game to take pressure off Joe Flacco until he develops chemistry with new receivers, and I trust Dean Pees to replace Haloti Ngata with a combination platter of front-seven changeups. This is a battle-tested team that had two 14-point playoff leads in Foxboro last January. I just think the Ravens will find a way."
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Yeah, I can't agree with that. I'm sure Baltimore will be in the AFC North/playoff mix, but it's not close to the top team right now after another offseason of losing key players. At least Harbaugh can pick the brain of brother Jim now that Jim is in college and not an NFL competitor!
The Ravens were 6-2 at home last season, 4-4 against the spread and 2-6 "over/under." Baltimore's 2015 home schedule ranks as the 13th-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' 2014 winning percentage of .527. It's tied with Cincinnati for the easiest in the AFC North.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 27 -- Bengals (+3): In my opinion, the Ravens will be 1-1 entering this game as they open at Denver (lose) and then go to Oakland (should win). Cincinnati comes off a Week 2 home game against the Chargers. The Ravens lost at home in Week 1 to the Bengals last season, 23-16. Baltimore had rallied from a 15-0 halftime hole to take a 16-15 lead on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith. That lead lasted less than a minute. Flacco put it up a career-high 62 times and completed 35 for 345 yards, that one TD and a pick. Smith had seven catches for 118 yards in his first game in a Baltimore uniform. Key trend: Ravens 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 as a home favorite in series.
Oct. 11 -- Browns (+7): Baltimore will have extra time to prepare as it is off a Week 4 Thursday game in Pittsburgh. Cleveland is in San Diego in Week 4. The Ravens got into the playoffs in Week 17 last season with a 20-10 home win over Cleveland and with Kansas City beating San Diego. The Ravens looked terrible for three quarters but outscored the Browns 17-0 in the fourth. Flacco threw for 312 yards and two scores, while Justin Forsett rushed 17 times for 119 yards. Smith caught eight for 90. Key trend: Ravens 9-1 SU in past 10 at home vs. Browns as a favorite of at least 6.5 points (but only 3-7 ATS).
Nov. 1 -- Chargers (+3.5): Baltimore off tough trips to San Francisco and then Arizona ahead of this one and will be on a short week in playing the Cardinals on Monday night in Week 7. This is before the Ravens' bye week. San Diego is home to Oakland in Week 7. Baltimore lost to the visiting Bolts 34-33 in Week 13 last season. It was the Ravens' first loss at home in November since 2009, and they had been 11-0 all-time at home against West Coast teams. They led 30-20 with 6:13 left. The Ravens last lost a game when they scored 30 points in October 2009. Key trend: Ravens 7-3 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC West.
Nov. 15 -- Jaguars (+10.5): As noted above, this is off Baltimore's bye. Jacksonville is at the Jets in Week 9. In Week 15 last season, the Ravens beat the visiting Jaguars 20-12. They sacked Blake Bortles eight times and scored on a blocked punt. It was a very sloppy game offensively. Reliable kicker Justin Tucker missed two field goals. Flacco went 20-for-30 for 221 yards and a touchdown. Key trend: Ravens 10-0 SU in past 10 as a home favorite of at least 10 points -- but only 2-8 ATS.
Nov. 22 -- Rams (+3.5): St. Louis is off a home game vs. Chicago in Week 10. Because of that bye week, this will technically be the conclusion of a three-game homestand for the Ravens. They also have another one upcoming. First meeting since Baltimore won 37-7 in St. Louis in September 2011. Key trend: Ravens 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC.
Dec. 13 -- Seahawks (-1): Baltimore is off a Week 13 trip to Miami. Seattle is in Minnesota in Week 13. This is a Sunday night game, and it will be interesting to see if the Ravens actually will be home dogs when this one rolls around. One could say that Baltimore has the best-run front office in the AFC and Seattle does in the NFC. Teams are a lot alike. Seattle hasn't visited Baltimore since 2003. Key trend: Ravens 4-6 ATS in past 10 as a home dog.
Dec. 20 -- Chiefs (+3.5): Chiefs are home to San Diego in Week 14. Ravens owe the Kansas City franchise some sort of thank-you gift for that win over the Chargers in Week 17 last season. First matchup of the clubs since a truly ugly 9-6 Baltimore win in Kansas City in October 2012. Key trend: Ravens 4-6 ATS in past 10 as a home favorite of at least 3.5 points in December.
Dec. 27 -- Steelers (+2): Pittsburgh comes off a potentially big home game in Week 15 against Denver. This also is a Sunday night game, and I highly doubt it gets flexed out of that spot. The Ravens beat the visiting Steelers 26-6 in Week 2 on a Thursday night last season. That came just a few days after Ray Rice was released. Flacco went 21-for-29 for 166 yards and two TD throws to tight end Owen Daniels, and Tucker kicked four field goals. Usually these teams play close games. Key trend: Ravens 4-6 ATS in past 10 vs. Steelers as home favorite.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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