2018 Baltimore Ravens Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
Will 2018 be the end of an era in Baltimore?
I believe it will be if the Ravens miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season. This will be John Harbaugh's 11th season as coach, and many will tell you that 10 years is about the limit because players tune coaches out after a decade.
Really, though, this year is all about quarterback Joe Flacco. We all know how brilliant he was in the 2012 playoffs, capped by winning Super Bowl MVP honors. You won't find many better examples of a guy leveraging his success in a contract year better than Flacco. The Ravens essentially had no choice but to make him the highest-paid player in the NFL after that playoff performance.
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Since 2013, Baltimore has given Flacco $112 million in salary and bonuses. What has the team gotten out of it? Flacco has thrown 98 touchdowns and 74 picks over the past five seasons for an 82.1 passer rating, which ranks No. 36 in the NFL. Colin Kaepernick has a better number than that but can't get a job (albeit for non-football reasons). Baltimore has made the playoffs once in that span and lost in the 2014 Divisional Round.
That Flacco contract absolutely hamstrung this organization since and still is - but after this season is the first time the Ravens could legitimately move on from Flacco and save money. The team can save $18.5 million in 2019 if it designates Flacco as a post-June 1 cut, spreading his cap hit into two seasons. The team also landed his potential replacement, trading back into the end of the 2018 first round of the draft to take Louisville quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, a guy who couldn't possibly be more different from Flacco in playing style. Jackson is pretty raw so we likely don't see him much in 2018 barring injury, but his potential upside is off the charts like a new-age Michael Vick. The Ravens needs some buzz around their team because attendance has started to suffer as well.
Baltimore was 4-4 on the road last season, 5-2-1 against the spread and 5-3 "over/under." The Ravens travel to a whopping five playoff teams from last year: Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Carolina, Atlanta and Kansas City. You won't see any tougher than that, plus the very underrated Chargers are on the slate. The home schedule is clearly easier. I project a 1-7 road mark. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 13 at Bengals (pick'em): First Thursday night game during the season, not counting the Kickoff Game were teams have plenty of rest ahead of it. Baltimore opens vs. Buffalo. Flacco hates playing in Cincinnati as nine career games there he has thrown six touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a 61.8 passer rating. Baltimore opened last season with a 20-0 win there, forcing five turnovers. Key trend: Ravens 4-6 ATS in past 10 at Bengals.
Sept. 30 at Steelers (-6): Sunday night. Baltimore has lost its past two at Heinz Field, blowing late leads in both. It was 39-38 in Week 14 last year in a highly-entertaining game. The Ravens led 31-20 entering the fourth and 38-29 with less than four minutes remaining. Alex Collins rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown. Key trend: Ravens 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 as dog at Steelers.
Oct. 7 at Browns (+2.5): I believe this and Tennessee are Baltimore's only realistic chances of a road win. In John Harbaugh's 10 seasons, the Ravens are 18-2 against the Browns, although this might be the best Cleveland team in that span. This already concludes Baltimore's road AFC North schedule. That's very early. Key trend: Ravens 7-3 ATS in past 10 as favorite in Cleveland.
Oct. 14 at Titans (-2.5): Three-game road trips aren't much fun but at least they are all a short distance from Baltimore. Tennessee's new defensive coordinator is Dean Pees, who held the same role in Baltimore before briefly retiring following last season. The Ravens lost in Nashville in Week 9 last year, 23-20. Key trend: Ravens 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 at Titans.
Oct. 28 at Panthers (-2): Last road game for more than a month, which is nice, although the Ravens likely will be buried by now. It's Baltimore's first trip to Charlotte since 2010. Back then, someone named Brian St. Pierre started at QB for the Panthers in the game. Key trend: Ravens 6-2 ATS at NFC South foes.
Dec. 2 at Falcons (-3.5): Only dome game on the schedule and the closest Baltimore will get to Super Bowl LIII (Atlanta hosts). The link here is that Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Flacco were the first two QBs taken in the 2008 draft. They have split two career meetings. Key trend: Ravens 5-5 ATS in past 10 as December road dog of at least 3.5 points.
Dec. 9 at Chiefs (-2): Assuming Patrick Mahomes is still starting here for the Chiefs, I may have to take the Ravens plus the points. Under Harbaugh, they are 20-8 against rookie or second-year quarterbacks, forcing 27 interceptions. Key trend: Ravens 2-4 ATS at Chiefs.
Dec. 23 at Chargers (-3.5): This game could be moved to Dec. 22. It's Baltimore's first NFL game in Los Angeles since October 1975 when the Colts lost to the Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. These franchises haven't played since 2015. Key trend: Ravens 4-6 ATS in past 10 at Chargers (in San Diego).
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