Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Time: 10:00 a.m. PT
It’s a new era of Ravens football, entering their first season with someone other than Joe Flacco as the starting quarterback for the first time in more than 10 years. This is Lamar Jackson’s team now, bringing about a much different identity to the offense.
Jackson was electrifying in his freshman campaign last year, going 6-1 and leading Baltimore to a playoff berth while racking up the third-most yards on the ground (695) by a rookie quarterback ever. The former Heisman Trophy winner foreshadowed this in his first career start just prior to Thanksgiving, when he diced up the Cincinnati Bengals for 119 rushing yards on a whopping 26 attempts.
For sure, Jackson should have a very intriguing outlook leading a new-look offensive unit, one that also now boasts the presence of Mark Ingram to lead the backfield. Jackson also gained rookie wide-outs Miles Boykin and Marquise Brown as targets.
There’s still a lot to be seen about what the offense is capable of now, considering Jackson also flashed inconsistencies with his passing game as a rookie. He completed 58.2 percent of his throws and averaged less than 160 passing yards per game in his seven starts, after all.
Either way, given the Louisville product’s tendency to take it to the ground, this is a group that will run the ball frequently, which figures to see chunks of clock being used often as long as they’re not constantly executing big plays.
And therein lies one of the main keys to this bet in projecting a lower-scoring contest. Remember, while this can be a dynamic Baltimore offense, it’s one with some new pieces, and with all the different things they’ll be trying, it’s one that won’t be polished out of the get-go.
An offseason of preparation by the other side can only add to that thinking, as you can bet new Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham have spent tireless hours prepping for a dynamic signal-caller like Jackson. They’ll make the Ravens earn it with long, time-consuming drives, which is only beneficial for an under wager.
Making opposing offenses work is a hallmark of an elite defense like the one possessed by the Ravens. Though they lost some key players from a season ago, Baltimore still returns most of a unit that was one of the league’s best last season, giving up fewer yards per game (292.9) than any other team in football.
The opponent for their Week 1 assignment? Veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick — who will be setting a new NFL record by starting a game for his eighth different club — and a not-so-intimidating Dolphin offense.
Fitzpatrick evidently still has something left in the tank based on the fact that he registered a career-high 100.4 passer rating in 2018, albeit in eight games (seven starts).
But the offense he paces now does not have nearly the same quality of weapons as he did last year in Tampa Bay. His No. 1 receiver, for instance, is perennial underachiever DeVante Parker.
The lead running back, youngster Kenyan Drake, is promising but has not proven yet he can regularly handle full workloads out of the backfield. Even so, Flores has already said they’ll be getting Drake a lot of touches, so if they feature a run-heavy strategy, that can only work in favor of this bet. Play: UNDER 40 (-110)
Zylbert’s 2019 NFL Over/Under Betting Record*: 0-0, —
Zylbert’s 2018 NFL Over/Under Betting Record*: 12-9-2, +1.7 units
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit