Baltimore players could have swapped that fierce-looking Ravens head that’s plastered on the side of their helmets for a red cross in the 2021 season. It would have more accurately reflected the legion of Ravens players who were sidelined by injuries, many of them season-ending, and which sent Baltimore’s NFL season into a death spiral.
From an 8-3 record in late November and fighting for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the wounded Ravens lost their last six games and missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, finishing 8-9. Along with former league MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, who struggled with an ankle problem and nagging illness, missing five games and most of a sixth, the Ravens were gutted by injuries at running back and defensive back.
The Ravens started the 2021 regular season having some of the best odds in the NFL to win Super Bowl LVI.
Looking ahead, Maryland sports betting oddsmakers have the Ravens as +2100 (FanDuel) and +2000 (DraftKings) to win Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, next year.
The AFC North is cast as a competitive group with the Pittsburgh Steelers, minus retired veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger, in the unfamiliar role as the perceived division weakling. As far as winning the Super Bowl, the Bengals are +2100 (FD), +1400 (DK); the Browns are +2400 (FD), +3000 (DK), and the Steelers are +7000 (FD), +5000 (DK).
Chasing the Chiefs & Bills
Overall, the darlings of the oddsmakers so far are Kansas City and Buffalo, tied at +700 (FD) and +750 (DK), followed by the newly-crowned NFL champion L.A. Rams, Bengals, Dallas, San Francisco and Green Bay.
After firing defensive coordinator Wink Martindale (now with the New York Giants), Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is faced with retooling a defense that had been Baltimore’s calling card for years.
On top of that, the Ravens find themselves in a newly competitive AFC North. Traditionally, the division was a two-team race between Baltimore and the Steelers. Now, the Bengals are a revived franchise having narrowly lost the Super Bowl to the Rams, 23-20, and Cleveland has become dangerous. The Browns hung one of those late-season losses on the Ravens last year.
Jackson’s Return is Key
The Ravens‘ odds, which have them in the top 20% to 25% of the NFL, are certainly boosted by the presumed continuing virtuosity of QB Jackson.
Plus, last season they had the dubious distinction of losing three games by one point, a fourth by two points and still another in overtime. If some of those close ones had gone the other way, the Ravens would probably have made the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
In the NFL Draft, the Ravens are No. 14 in the first round barring some maneuvering, and Baltimore is expected to go hunting for help on defense, especially for the D-line.