WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BALTIMORE RAVENS?
The Baltimore Ravens have a bye week on Sunday and it’s a needed chance for them to lick their wounds and solve some problems. That means it’s also time for NFL handicappers to take a second look at the Ravens’ current four-game losing streak and see if this is something that can turn itself around.
It’s a question with important financial considerations. It’s not just the week-to-week money there is to be made betting on or against Baltimore. But the futures market offers a healthy 5-1 price on the Ravens simply to win the AFC North. Let’s keep in mind that in spite of the losing streak, Baltimore still has a 3-4 record and is only a game back of Pittsburgh, who is without Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens are tied with the Bengals, who have had struggles of their own in the early going.
Baltimore’s losing streak started innocently enough, as such things often do. They dropped a tough 28-27 decision at home to Oakland as a (-3½) favorite. The Ravens mostly got the best of it in terms of controlling the flow of play, but played with bad field position much of the game and were outplayed in the red zone.
The Redskins were up next and again the Ravens let a home game slip away, this time by allowing an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown and losing a fumble on the goal line.
When Baltimore went to New York and met the Giants, they played well much of the game and were poised to get a win as a (+3½) road dog. Then Eli Manning found Odell Beckham on a 66-yard touchdown pass with just over a minute left and another loss—both ATS and straight-up—was on the books.
In all three of these games, the Ravens just seemed to be a combination of snake-bit and creating some of their own problems. They averaged double-digit penalties in these games and got the worst of it on both special teams and the red zone. But there was nothing to suggest Baltimore was structurally flawed.
Until last Sunday that is. The Ravens went back to the Meadowlands, this time to face the Jets and played awful football. Baltimore was outrushed 155-6. They let Ryan Fitzpatrick get back on his feet. And they lost the football game 24-16.
It’s the kind of loss that makes you question whether the three games that preceded it took a big chunk out of this team’s confidence. If that’s the case, there are reasons for Baltimore backers to have hope for a turnaround. The bye week gives them a chance to recharge the batteries, John Harbaugh is a veteran coach and Harbaugh’s background in special teams means he’s well-suited to fix some of the “little things” that bedeviled this team for much of the current losing streak.
The time for futures bettors to decide is now. The Ravens host the Steelers coming out of the bye. If Baltimore wins, be assured that 5-1 price will drop sharply. If they lose, it’s difficult to see them cashing an AFC North title ticket no matter how good the number is. This game will be one of four the Ravens still have with the Steelers and Bengals. In spite of the recent rough patch, Baltimore’s season still gets a re-set when they come back to the field next week.