The Baltimore Ravens for the first time in franchise history will open a season with back-to-back prime-time games, but that will put them at a major short-week disadvantage for a huge Week 2 home game vs. Kansas City. The Ravens opened as 4-point favorites for the Week 1 Monday night matchup in Las Vegas but obviously will lose a day of preparation for one of the AFC's most important games of the season Sept. 19 in Baltimore vs. the Chiefs -- the winner gets a huge head-to-head tiebreaker. For a point of reference, last year the Ravens were 7-2 against the spread with equal rest vs. an opponent but 4-3 ATS with a rest disadvantage. Remember that when betting Week 2.
For three straight seasons, the Ravens have led the NFL in rushing attempts. Could John Harbaugh and former league MVP Lamar Jackson change things up a bit this season and throw more? Offensive coordinator Greg Roman expects the team to "expand its profile quite a bit" after adding receivers Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the draft and Sammy Watkins in free agency. William Hill Sportsbook gives Baltimore an Over/Under win total of 11.0, while the SportsLine Projection Model forecasts the Ravens for 11.1 victories.
It made all the sense in the world for Harbaugh to turn Baltimore's offense into a running juggernaut when the incomparable dual-threat Jackson took over as the starting quarterback. Of course, the Ravens led the NFL with 14 victories in 2019 and set multiple league rushing records as Jackson was named NFL MVP. Alas, the Ravens lost at home in the Divisional Round to Tennessee.
Last year, the Ravens slipped to second in the AFC North with an 11-5 record but rushed for 3,071 yards, nearly 400 more than second-place Tennessee. Baltimore got payback against the Titans in the wild-card round before losing in Buffalo in the Divisional Round thanks in large part to a third-quarter Jackson interception that was returned 101 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter. Buffalo also limited that stellar rushing offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.
The Ravens signed Watkins in free agency to a one-year deal after JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.Y. Hilton both chose to remain with their original teams. The Ravens' wide receiver group ranked last in the NFL in receptions (137) and receiving yards (1,729) last season. Watkins is still only 28 (in June) but has had trouble staying healthy his entire career.
Baltimore also looked into the likes of Antonio Brown and trading for Atlanta's Julio Jones but was able to add two terrific WR prospects in the draft in Minnesota's Bateman and Oklahoma State's Wallace, who may have been a fourth-round steal (slipped with his own injury history).
Over the past 25 years, the Ravens have had one 1,000-yard season from a drafted receiver, the fewest of any team in the NFL. However, now the team has three first-round picks at wideout (Bateman, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Watkins) for the first time in franchise history.
"I don't want to call it an embarrassment of riches, but when you talk about Hollywood and Devin (Duvernay) and Miles (Boykin), I really feel good about the guys we have," Roman said of the team's receivers. "This offense is really one that runs through Lamar. We're always going to do what gives us the best chance to win. When you add talent like that, it's really going to expand our profile quite a bit, actually. To play with the kind of balance that we really want to play with."
Baltimore did trade Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown to Kansas City for draft picks but filled his shoes by signing former Pittsburgh Steelers two-time Pro Bowl tackle Alejandro Villanueva to a two-year deal after not selecting a tackle in the draft to take Brown's spot in the lineup. Villanueva, 32, started at left tackle for the Steelers for the past six seasons but will move to the right side as Baltimore has Ronnie Stanley at left tackle.
The Ravens' 2021 schedule is ranked as the 2nd-toughest in the league as their 17 opponents – hosting the Rams is the 17th game -- were a combined 152-118-2 last season.
Baltimore Ravens trends/ William Hill Sportsbook odds
- 2020 record: 11-5 (10-5-1 against the spread, 7-9 Over/Under)
- 2021 strength of schedule rank: 2nd (opponents' combined winning percentage of .563)
- 2021 Over/Under win total: 11.0
- SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 11.1
- Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +1400
- To win AFC: +650
- To win AFC North: +115
- To make playoffs: Yes -360, no +280
- NFL MVP odds: Lamar Jackson +1600
Baltimore Ravens Schedule
Week 1 at Las Vegas Raiders (MNF): Ravens have won past two overall vs. Raiders but this will be first trip to Vegas
Week 2 vs. Kansas City Chiefs (SNF): K.C. was +3.5 in Baltimore last season and won 34-20
Week 3 at Detroit Lions: Ravens on 3-0 SU & ATS run vs. Lions with last meeting in 2017
Week 4 at Denver Broncos: First meeting since 2018, a 27-14 Ravens home victory
Week 5 vs. Indianapolis Colts (MNF): Baltimore was short dog in Indy last year and won 24-10
Week 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Will be Ravens' first-ever in-person look at Justin Herbert
Week 7 vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Ravens won 27-3 last year to snap three-game ATS home skid vs. Bengals
Week 8 BYE
Week 9 vs. Minnesota Vikings: Teams have split the past four meetings overall SU & ATS
Week 10 at Miami Dolphins (TNF): Teams opened 2019 season vs. one another in Miami and Ravens won 59-10
Week 11 at Chicago Bears: Chicago has won past two meetings, last 27-24 on road in 2017
Week 12 vs. Cleveland Browns: Baltimore was -7 at home last year and blew out Browns 38-6 in Week 1
Week 13 at Pittsburgh Steelers: Baltimore is 4-0-1 ATS in past five in Steel City after close loss in 2020
Week 14 at Cleveland Browns: Cleveland has covered just two of past 10 at home in series (last in 2018)
Week 15 vs. Green Bay Packers: Ravens won last meeting 23-0 in Green Bay four years ago
Week 16 at Cincinnati Bengals: Ravens rolled 38-3 last year and have covered three of past four in Cincy
Week 17 vs. Los Angeles Rams: Baltimore has won past four in series, last in 2019 (3-0-1 ATS)
Week 18 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh has covered three of its past four on road in series
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