No Respect for the Ravens: Baltimore could be a Value Pick on the NFL Futures

The NFL isn’t set up for dynasties. Winning one Super Bowl is difficult enough, let alone back-to-back championships; only the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots have pulled it off since the 1990 season. So how about the Baltimore Ravens?

Not very likely, according to the NFL odds. Baltimore is a fringe candidate at 22/1 on the Super Bowl futures market. That’s well behind the San Francisco 49ers (6/1) as we go to press. Yes, the same 49ers team that Baltimore defeated at Super Bowl XLVII.

Well, almost the same team. This is a new season, and roster turnover is one of the most important things you need to look at when you bet on the NFL. The 2013 Ravens will not have Ray Lewis at linebacker – he retired at the end of last year’s playoff run. Lewis was the face of the franchise, the 2000 Super Bowl MVP and one of the better linebackers ever to play in the league.

But he’s no Terrell Suggs. The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year was in and out of the lineup last season with injuries, and the Ravens were much worse without him around. In one of the juiciest NFL betting angles from 2012, Baltimore was a tremendous fade candidate at 2-6 ATS without Suggs, and a mouth-watering 7-3-1 ATS when Suggs suited up.

Not bad, considering Suggs missed the entire preseason and the first six weeks of the regular season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. Conditioning shouldn’t be a problem for Suggs in 2013, although he turns 31 in October. Meanwhile, safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard have moved on, as has cornerback Cary Williams, but Baltimore’s defense should be even better this year thanks to their departures.

This is the kind of situation that NFL betting experts dream about. People are naturally inclined to overvalue what they already have; losing Lewis and Reed might seem like the end of an era for Baltimore, but in reality, their tanks were nearly empty, and the Ravens already have replacement parts in first-round pick Matt Elam (safety, Florida Gators) and second-round pick Arthur Brown (linebacker, Kansas State).

Baltimore can also look forward to the return of cornerback Lardarius Webb, who tore his ACL in Week 6 and missed the rest of the season. Webb is one of the best young corners in the league. He’s also a speed demon on special teams, where Webb has scored touchdowns on both punt returns and kick returns. But his name got lost in the injury shuffle last year with Suggs and Lewis taking up most of the headlines.

And we haven’t even started talking about the Ravens offense. Joe Flacco signed a massive six-year, $120.6-million contract in the offseason after winning the Super Bowl. That might be a bit expensive on a team that emphasizes the running game, but Flacco has proved himself to be more than just a “manager” quarterback. Even so, having both Ray Rice (4.4 yards per carry, 61 catches) and Bernard Pierce (4.9 yards per carry) in the backfield makes Flacco’s job that much easier.

Taking all that into consideration, if you’re looking for value when you bet NFL futures, the defending Super Bowl champions look pretty darn tasty at 22/1. The Ravens also have a very beatable target of 8.5 regular season wins on the NFL prop market, with the over listed at -135.

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