Thanks to a roster purge in Baltimore this offseason, the Ravens are getting no respect. At least in Week 1 from Vegas anyway -- on our NFL Experts Pick page, the Ravens are a whopping 9.5-point underdog. It shouldn't be surprising we're all taking Baltimore.
Now, I'd never actually bet anything significant like my mortgage, and gambling is illegal at Bushwood ... but if I was a betting man I would unload on the Ravens this week.
They've lost Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, but those guys are overrated. Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger departing hurts, but they wanted too much money. Baltimore replaced the departed talent by stealing Elvis Dumervil through a Broncos technology snafu (think he'll be pumped up for this game?), signing Daryl Smith and drafting Arthur Brown and Matt Elam.
Perhaps the most underrated "addition" this offseason is the return of Ladarius Webb -- one of the NFL's best cornerbacks when healthy -- from injury.
I'm not a Joe Flacco "guy" per se (even if I do agree with his stance on Johnny Manziel) but if you're banking on him to play like he did in the playoffs, this is a good game for it. After all, you might not realize it, but Flacco gets up pretty good for season openers.
In his five seasons, Flacco's completed 58.9 percent of his 168 Week 1 attempts for 1,207 yards while throwing eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Not too shabby. It's even better when you take out his rookie season (a.k.a. his first game ever) -- Flacco's averaged 268.5 passing yards while completing 60.4 percent of his passes in season openers the last four years. All eight of his touchdown passes (and both of his interceptions) came in those games.
Add in the fact that the Broncos definitely won't have Von Miller and very well might not have Champ Bailey and it's not hard to imagine a scenario where Flacco puts up big stats on Thursday night.
The line is actually shifting towards Baltimore (the Ravens are now down to +7.5 at Sportsbook.ag), which is a sign that I'm not alone in this thinking.
But giving the defending world champions more than a touchdown cushion on how they'll perform? Even against Peyton Manning and his impressive group of wide receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker might be the best group in the league) seems like a bit much.
One could even call it disrespectful. The Ravens won't tell you that beforehand, but they'd absolutely agree. Which is why if I'm betting on this game I'm absolutely uncorking on the Ravens getting that many points as they begin their Super Bowl defense.