It's a quiet Baltimore Ravens training camp, which is a nice change from last year when the Ray Rice issue was hanging over the franchise. "It's better this year than it was last year," said coach John Harbaugh, whose team had its first practice on Thursday. Really there are only two starting jobs up for grabs, the No. 2 receiver and tight end, the latter because of the serious injury suffered last season by Dennis Pitta. He has opened camp in the PUP list. Pitta still hasn't been medically cleared from his career-threatening hip injury and if he isn't activated before the start of the season, he will miss at least the first six games. The Ravens have Pitta insurance after taking University of Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams with its second-round pick.
The Ravens did have some significant losses this offseason, led by receiver Torrey Smith, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and end/linebacker Pernell McPhee. But then the Ravens lose key guys every offseason and continue to win. The team also lost offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who took the Denver top job. Not sure I'm thrilled with them hiring former Bears head coach Marc Trestman as Kubiak's replacement. Did the Ravens not see that Chicago offense in 2014?
Baltimore was 4-4 on the road last season, 3-4-1 against the spread and 5-3 "over/under." The Ravens' 2015 road schedule ranks as the eighth-hardest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2014 winning percentage of .551. It's the easiest in the AFC North.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 13 -- at Broncos (-4): Not a great way to start for Baltimore against Peyton Manning considering the Ravens allowed the most passing yards in franchise history in 2014. Manning did a number on Baltimore in the last meeting, which was the NFL season opener in 2013 when he had an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes along with 462 yards. Last Baltimore trip to Denver was that stunning Ravens' playoff upset in the 2012 season. Ravens lose here. Key trend: Ravens 3-7 ATS in past 10 as a road dog of at least 4 points.
Sept. 20 -- at Raiders (+5): Hello trap game! If Ravens somehow win in Denver, I could easily see them losing this one. Might they just stay out West for practices following Week 1? Baltimore has won four straight in the series, last in 2012. Ravens win this. Key trend: Ravens 4-6 ATS in past 10 as road favorite of at least 5 points.
Oct. 1 -- at Steelers (-3): Thursday night game. Baltimore is off its home opener vs. Cincinnati, while Pittsburgh is in St. Louis in Week 3. These bitter rivals usually play close games, but all three were decided by double digits in 2014. The Ravens lost in Pittsburgh in Week 9, 43-23, as Big Ben threw six touchdown passes. Joe Flacco threw for 303 yards and two scores. As I'm sure you remember, the teams met in Pittsburgh in the wild-card round and the Ravens pulled off a 30-17 upset, no doubt helped by the fact the Steelers didn't have Le'Veon Bell. No such luck here unless Bell gets hurt the week before vs. the Rams, his first game off suspension. Flacco threw for 259 and two scores in the playoff win, and the Ravens forced three turnovers. Ravens lose this. Key trend: Ravens 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Oct. 18 -- at 49ers (+1.5): This probably would have been a prime-time game if Jim Harbaugh was still at San Francisco. Baltimore is off a home game vs. Cleveland in Week 5, while the Niners are at the NY Giants the previous Sunday. The Ravens lost Smith as a free agent to the Niners. First meeting since the Ravens' 34-31 Super Bowl XLVII win in New Orleans. Remember, Baltimore was dominating that game until the power went out at the Superdome and the Niners nearly rallied. Ravens win this. Key trend: Ravens 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road favorite of 2 points or fewer.
Oct. 26 -- at Cardinals (-2): Monday night game. Arizona is off a Week 6 trip to Pittsburgh. Good news for Ravens is that it's their final trip west of the Mississippi in 2015. Baltimore has won four straight in series but hasn't been to Arizona since 2003. Ravens win this. Key trend: Ravens 7-3 ATS in past 10 at NFC teams.
Nov. 30 -- at Browns (+2.5): Also a Monday night game. Huge break between road games because the Ravens have three at home and a bye; they come off a game vs. the Rams in Week 11. Cleveland is off its bye week. Ravens won 23-21 in Cleveland in Week 3 last season. Justin Tucker hit the winning 32-yard field goal as time expired. Flacco set up Tucker's game-winner with a 32-yard pass to Steve Smith with 1:28 left. Frankly, the Browns deserved to win this game but kept shooting themselves in the foot. Ravens win this. Key trend: Ravens 5-5 ATS in past 10 as road favorite in series.
Dec. 6 -- at Dolphins (pick'em): Obviously a short week for Baltimore, while Miami is at the Jets in Week 12. Ravens won 28-13 in south Florida in Week 14 last season despite trailing by 10 in the second quarter. The Ravens played 17 minutes before they made a first down yet finished with 26 first downs and 447 yards. Elvis Dumervil sacked Ryan Tannehill 3.5 times. Ravens lose this. Key trend: Ravens 7-2-1 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Jan. 3 -- at Bengals (-1): Baltimore off a Sunday night game vs. Pittsburgh in Week 16, while Cincinnati is on a short week, traveling to Denver the previous Monday. The Ravens lost 27-24 in Cincinnati in Week 8 last year to complete the season sweep. Andy Dalton scored on a 1-yard sneak with 57 seconds left. The Ravens had rallied from an 11-point deficit to take the lead on an 8-yard Lorenzo Taliaferro run with 6:31 remaining and then Tucker added a 53-yard field goal with 3:59 to go. Flacco wasn't very good, going 17-for-34 for 195 yards and two picks. Ravens lose this. Key trend: Ravens 0-5 SU and ATS in past five as road dog in series.
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