A few national experts I respect greatly picked the Baltimore Ravens to make last season's Super Bowl. I didn't agree with them, but it wouldn't have shocked me.
Instead, the Ravens plummeted to a 5-11 record, their first losing season under Coach John Harbaugh and worst record since 2007. I am not sure I've seen a potential Super Bowl contender have worse luck, both in terms of close losses and injuries, than what happened to Baltimore last year. And if life is supposed to even out, then the Ravens should be great this season.
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The entire 2015 season was summed up in a Week 1 19-13 loss at eventual Super Bowl champion Denver. The Ravens lost their best defensive player, Terrell Suggs, to a season-ending injury in the game and saw a chance to win at the end vanish when a Joe Flacco pass for tight end Crockett Gilmore in the end zone was snatched away by a Broncos defender with 28 seconds left. Not too often you lose without allowing an offensive touchdown as the Ravens did.
The next week, the Ravens lost in Oakland in the final minute. In Week 3, they lost at home to Cincinnati in the final two minutes. Week 5: 3-point overtime home loss to Cleveland. Week 6: 5-point loss in San Francisco. Week 7: 8-point loss that still went to the final possession in Arizona. Week 10: 2-point home loss to Jacksonville. Week 13: 2-point loss in Miami. It was truly unbelievable. Ravens could have won all those games.
By the end of the season, the team was unrecognizable with so many guys on injured reserve, including Flacco tearing his ACL, No. 1 running back Justin Forsett breaking his arm and top receiver Steve Smith tearing his Achilles.
Baltimore was 2-6 on the road last season, 4-3-1 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." The Ravens play three 2015 playoff teams on the road this season (just one outside of division) and they are the team's final three away games. So they better get off to a good start outside of Maryland before that. I believe they will go 4-4 away from home overall. Baltimore has a wins total of 8 for this year, with the over a -140 favorite. And I do love the over there. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 18 at Browns (+3): Ravens should be 1-0 after beating visiting Buffalo in Week 1. Cleveland likely will be 0-1 after losing in Philadelphia in Week 1. No team has won more times in Cleveland since Harbaugh became Ravens coach in 2008 as Baltimore is 7-1 over that span. They won there 33-27 in Week 12 last year on a Monday with Matt Schuab as the Ravens' starting QB. You no doubt remember that game as Baltimore blocked a potential 51-yard winning field goal attempt and Will Hill returned it 64 yards for the winning TD as time expired. Key trend: Ravens have covered four straight in Cleveland as a favorite of at least 3 points.
Sept. 25 at Jaguars (pick'em): Jacksonville is off a Week 2 trip to San Diego. It's going to be real hot and humid most likely this time of year in Jacksonville. Baltimore lost 22-20 at home to the Jags in Week 10 last season. That was another crazy ending. The Jags had lost, it appeared, but on their final play Baltimore's Elvis Dumervil was called for a facemask penalty on Jags QB Blake Bortles. So of course after the 15-yard penalty, Jacksonville hit a 53-yard field goal to win. Flacco went 34-for-45 for 316 yards and three touchdowns, but he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Key trend: Ravens 0-5 ATS in past five at AFC South teams.
Oct. 16 at Giants (-3): Baltimore could legitimately be 5-0 and is off a Week 5 home game vs. Washington. New York is in Green Bay the previous Sunday night and ahead of a trip to London. Ravens are 4-1 all-time against the Giants, including one Super Bowl victory. Key trend: Ravens 6-4 ATS in past 10 at NFC East teams.
Oct. 23 at Jets (-4): Back-to-back games at MetLife Stadium. Interesting. If Baltimore wasn't so close to New Jersey, I'd assume the Ravens would just stay nearby. Maybe they still do. This is ahead of Baltimore's bye week. New York is on a short week as it visits Arizona on Monday in Week 6. The Ravens have won eight straight in this series, last in 2013. Key trend: Ravens 4-6 ATS in past 10 before a bye (any location).
Nov. 20 at Cowboys (-4.5): Baltimore off a Week 10 Thursday home game vs. Cleveland, and this will be the team's only trip outside the Eastern Time Zone. The Ravens have lost their past five road games outside their time zone. Dallas is in Pittsburgh the previous Sunday. Baltimore is 4-0 all-time in this series. Key trend: Ravens 2-8 ATS in past 10 games as a November road dog of at least 4.5 points.
Dec. 12 at Patriots (-9): Monday night game. Baltimore off a Week 13 home matchup vs. Miami. New England is home to the Rams the previous Sunday. It's the first meeting between these two since the Ravens blew two 14-point leads in Foxboro in the AFC divisional playoff following the 2014 season. New England won 35-31. Key trend: Ravens are 4-0-1 ATS in past five trips to Patriots including playoffs.
Dec. 25 at Steelers (-8): One of three games on Christmas. Baltimore hosts Philly the previous Sunday. Pittsburgh is in Cincinnati in Week 15. The Ravens have won five times at Heinz Field this decade, including 23-20 in overtime last season on Justin Tucker's 52-yard field goal. That was really the only game where fortune smiled on the Ravens as Pittsburgh kicker Josh Scobee missed two crucial fourth-quarter field goals. Should be noted that Michael Vick was Pittsburgh's starting QB. Key trend: Ravens haven't been more than a touchdown dog in Pittsburgh since 2007; they are 0-5 SU all-time in that scenario.
Jan. 1 at Bengals (TBA): Again, no Week 17 lines with too much possibly up in the air on the final Sunday, and I do think this game will mean something to both teams. Cincinnati is off a Christmas Eve game in Houston. Baltimore has finished at Paul Brown Stadium in five of the past six years. Last year the Ravens lost there 24-16 in Week 17. But that game obviously meant nothing for Baltimore. Ryan Mallett was the starting QB. Key trend: Ravens 3-7 ATS in past 10 regular-season games in Cincinnati.
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