• Cornerback Jimmy Smith is suspended for four games, but Baltimore kept a defense that was among the NFL's best last season intact.
By Michael Beller
September 02, 2018

Here at SI Gambling, we are going to unveil our NFL betting experts’ win total previews for all 32 NFL teams. Make sure to check out all of them, as well as the rest of our gambling content, at si.com/gambling.

Ravens 2018 win total: 8 (over -170, under +150)

Ravens 2017 record: 9-7

Key offseason acquisitions: WR John Brown, WR Michael Crabtree, QB Robert Griffin III, WR Willie Snead

Key offseason losses: OT Austin Howard, C Ryan Jensen, WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Mike Wallace, TE Benjamin Watson, S Lardarius Webb, RB Danny Woodhead

Five things to keep in mind before betting the Ravens’ win total

1. There’s some below-the-radar intrigue surrounding the skill-player group in Baltimore. Alex Collins was a revelation last year, running for 973 yards and six touchdowns on 212 carries. Javorius Allen is an adept receiver out of the backfield. Michael Crabtree may not be a true go-to receiver, but he’s great at what he does, and a veteran team and coaching staff should understand how to use him. John Brown is the team’s necessary vertical element, and he has some help from Willie Snead. There’s no superstar here, but every player fits a defined role to a tee.

2. Of course, how well the offense plays rests on the right shoulder of Joe Flacco. It has been a few years since Flacco has been a truly effective quarterback. Last year, he threw for just 3,141 yards despite starting all 16 games, and he posted a career-low 5.72 yards per attempt. Getting Crabtree, Brown and Snead should help, but Flacco is the one who has to make this offense go. There’s enough talent up and down the roster that he doesn’t need to be elite to get the Ravens to nine wins. He needs to be better than he has been the last three years, however, during which time the Ravens have gone 20-22 with him under center.

Steelers Betting Preview: Will the Defense Have Trouble Without Ryan Shazier?

3. This team’s strength remains on the defensive side of the ball. The Ravens return largely intact a defense that ranked third in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, behind only the Jaguars and Vikings, from a year ago. If you prefer more traditional metrics, you should like that they ranked sixth in points allowed and 12th in total defense. Their sack rate ranked 10th and they picked off a league-best 22 passes. Jimmy Smith has to serve a four-game suspension at the start of the season, but every other key player from last year’s group will be out there to begin the year.

4. We haven’t focused on kicking games much in these betting previews, but the Ravens’ duo of Justin Tucker and Sam Koch deserves some notice. Tucker is a real weapon, connecting on 90.2% of his career field-goal attempts, including a 94.7% success rate the last two years. Tucker has converted 15 of his 17 attempts from beyond 50 yards the last two seasons, which puts the Ravens in scoring range from the moment they cross midfield. Koch, meanwhile, has been one of the most consistent punters in the league for more than a decade, ranking third in punts inside the 20 last year. That can be easy to overlook, but is critical to the success of a team that relies on its defense as much as Baltimore does.

5. The AFC North may not be a particularly tough lift, even with two games against the Steelers. The division matches up with the AFC West and NFC South, however, both of which will add some brutal games to the schedule. The Ravens round out their schedule with the Bills and Titans, kicking off their season at home against the former. It’s a middle-of-the-road schedule overall, but it has a particularly trying finish. The Ravens will play the Falcons, Chiefs and Chargers all on the road in the final five weeks of the year. This has the makings of an 8-8 season, which is a push for our purposes, and the slightly favorable odds for the under tip it in that direction.

PICK: UNDER 8 wins

Other NFL team betting previews: PatriotsJetsVikingsBillsRaidersCowboysTexansBroncos, 49ersSteelers, CardinalsBrowns, BuccaneersBengalsGiants, SaintsPackers, Falcons, Chiefs, Bears, Chargers, Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks

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