EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of 32 preseason previews in 32 days leading up to the NFL season opener Thursday, Sept 5.
Win total last 5 years: 54
LVH over/under wins (8½)
Las Vegas sports book are showing no respect for defending Super Bowl champions and you really can’t blame them.
There’s a laundry list of concerns, but tuck this stat away – Baltimore has won at least 9 games in each of the last five years, which makes OVER 8½ quite inviting.
Training camp began miserably with loss of tight end Dennis Pitta for the season. Bad enough Ray Lewis retired, Ed Reed opted to play at Houston and Anquan Boldin signed with San Francisco – the team the Ravens defeated in the Super Bowl.
So much for loyalty.
The Ravens took care of QB Joe Flacco with a monster $120.6 million contract. That’s what a Super Bowl MVP award can do for one’s value.
It has been eight years since there was a repeat NFL champion going back to the 2005 New England Patriots. And the AFC North will be a cat fight with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and improving Cleveland.
Baltimore didn’t get any help from the neighboring Orioles, who wouldn’t move their home game up thus forcing the Ravens to move their opener to Denver. Normally Super Bowl champs debut at home.
But don’t shed too many tears for Baltimore. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are a great 1-2 punch, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones give Flacco two deep threats. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil was a steal from Denver.
And Athlon Sports gave Baltimore a perfect A for its NFL draft, highlighted by top pick safety Matt Elam from Florida. He will no doubt inherit Reed’s position.
The first five games are Denver, Cleveland, Houston, Buffalo, Miami. I can’t see the Ravens dropping to 8-8 or worse. I can see 9 wins and missing the playoffs.
Sunday: Buffalo Bills.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].