The Ravens get a break on their schedule this week and they sure need it.
Baltimore - 9-5, coming off a loss to Cleveland, and limping along with star QB Lamar Jackson nursing a sore knee - draws Atlanta, rudderless at 5-9, for a Saturday Christmas Eve home game at M&T Bank Stadium
Breaking Down Ravens-Falcons
How are Maryland sportsbooks reacting?
The Ravens, despite having scored a total of just 29 points in their last three games and with Jackson questionable after missing the last two games, are either a 7 or 7.5-point favorite in Maryland NFL betting.
FanDuel Maryland, DraftKings Maryland, BetMGM Maryland and Caesars Sportsbook Maryland have the over-under at either 35.5 or 36 points.
If the Ravens beat Atlanta, they could even clinch a playoff spot with some combinations of outcomes around the AFC.
This is a game the Ravens absolutely need.
The Falcons have lost five of their last six games. The starting quarterback is rookie Desmond Ridder, who had a mere 97 passing yards in his first-ever start last week, a loss to New Orleans. The Ravens’ defense is tied for third-best in points-allowed in the NFL.
Even with backup QB Tyler Huntley behind center for the Ravens, this should be a six-inch putt for Baltimore. Heck, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker should be able to outscore the Falcons by himself.
That is what the Ravens must assess in the first December ever for Maryland sports betting apps.
Tough Sledding in Last 2 for Baltimore
After this week’s relatively soft game, the going gets increasingly tougher. Two AFC North rivals are on Baltimore’s dance card. For Game 16, the Ravens are at home against the dangerous Steelers. And the finale is a road game against Cincinnati, which has come on strong and taken the division lead.
The home stretch schedule aside, where the Ravens have found themselves is a painful lesson in having come to rely so heavily on one player, the incredibly gifted Lamar Jackson.
Whether it’s bad luck with injuries or lapses in roster-building, the Ravens are frightfully thin on offense, especially at receiver.
This week, Baltimore signed nine-year wide receiver Sammy Watkins, recently cut by Green Bay, as an emergency fill-in at wide receiver after Devin Duvernay hurt his foot. Watkins joins a wide receiver room that includes 36-year-old DeSean Jackson. It’s a great tandem – if it’s 2018. In 2022, they have a combined 20 receptions.
Despite all this, sportsbooks won’t dismiss the Ravens. BetMGM Maryland still sees the team as the fourth-best bet to win the AFC, tied with the Los Angeles Chargers at +1400, behind only Buffalo (+180), Kansas City (+225) and Cincinnati (+400). The Super Bowl odds are more steep, at +2500.
Ground Control a Major Strength
The Ravens’ offense, of course, is predicated on running the football. An anomaly in the modern NFL, the Ravens have made a ground game work quite well for a few years. But, again, much of that is due to Lamar Jackson and his highlight-reel ad-libbed downfield dashes. Without him, the Ravens can be productive on paper running the ball but, on the scoreboard, not so much.
Running back J.K. Dobbins, recently off IR (knee), has rushed for 245 yards and a TD in the last two games. He also has individual runs of 44 and 37 yards in those games, but even he admitted that he doesn’t have back yet his break-away speed.
Huntley is a decent QB backup. In only a handful of starts, he’s 2-4 over the last two seasons. He is no Lamar Jackson, but he can run effectively. However, he cannot carry the team like Jackson does.
To win, Huntley needs a supporting cast. And as seasons pass and time and injuries take their toll, Jackson also will need a stronger supporting cast as well. With all due respect to NFL elders, the likes of Sammy Watkins and DeSean Jackson won’t be the answer.
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