Preseason football is here, which means it's time to recklessly speculate on a rookie's career after watching him for a few plays and jump to conclusions when it comes to some of the notable quarterback battles around the league. Not many fans can stay juiced about a low-scoring preseason matchup for all four quarters, but there is one group of people who can: NFL preseason bettors.
Yes, there are those who bet on preseason football -- a club which I'm proudly a member of. Some may laugh at us or think we have nothing better to do with our lives, but the joke is on them because money is being made. For those unfamiliar with NFL preseason betting, there are two constants you need to be aware of: Unders are going to hit and the Baltimore Ravens are going to win. I'm here today to weigh in on the latter.
The Ravens are currently riding a 17-game win streak in the preseason -- which obviously is the longest active streak in the league. According to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, the Ravens are just two preseason wins away from tying the NFL-record 19 consecutive wins that Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers recorded from 1959-1962. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh doesn't take these preseason games as a joke, as he believes they mean something since they build momentum heading into the regular season.
"It means a lot," Harbaugh said, via the Ravens' official website. "Whether it's a winning streak, or just the idea of how you approach the games.
"I just think it's a credit to the players in terms of preparation and the coaches over the years in terms of we run a good training camp, offseason program and guys are ready to play good fundamental football. That's what wins, whether it's preseason or whatever it might be."
With history close to being made and their recent track record, the Ravens are going to be a popular pick to defeat the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night (Baltimore is a 2.5-point favorite at Caesar's Sportsbook). However, I'm very wary of taking Baltimore.
First of all, the Ravens have dealt with several issues in training camp. Quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the first 10 days of camp due to COVID-19 and the offensive line has been getting "whipped fairly regularly at practice." Here's what CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora said in his insider notes on Friday:
"Star left tackle Ronnie Stanley is coming off a significant midseason surgery and just started to do individual drills this week. At best perhaps he is ready for some work in the third preseason game, but even then will be working through things himself testing his body in a way he never has before. It's been a rotating cast of less-than-ideal candidates working as the starting left tackle without him (Tyree Phillips, Patrick Mecari, Andrew Smith), key veteran signings Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva haven't seen much of the field lately working through their own medical issues, and the makeshift five man units have been getting whipped fairly regularly at practice."
Obviously, Jackson won't play much in this preseason matchup, but the offensive line is definitely something to worry about. JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill are legitimate running backs, but will they struggle behind their blockers? Additionally, Baltimore's top receivers in Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman have dealt with injuries and have barely practiced. Things just have not gone well on offense up to this point. Trace McSorley will get some run at quarterback, and while he has shown some flashes, how much will he actually play? The only other quarterback Baltimore has on roster is Tyler Huntley, an undrafted free agent out of Utah who you may remember from his appearance against the Buffalo Bills in the postseason. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards after Jackson was knocked out with a concussion.
So the Ravens have some issues worth worrying about, but why do the Saints have a chance in this game? Look no further than the quarterback position. Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are battling for the right to replace Drew Brees under center, which means they will take more snaps than a normal starting quarterback would. Additionally, when they are taken out, the Saints have a couple of quarterbacks who at least have the potential to fare well in the second half. New Orleans has rookie Ian Book, who is an intriguing rookie out of Notre Dame, and then Trevor Siemian. The former Denver Broncos quarterback went 13-11 as a starter from 2016-17, and is at least a serviceable backup compared to some of the other signal-callers who are getting reps for other teams.
The Saints also have some defensive rookies that could be fun to watch. First-round pass-rusher Payton Turner is a player who could have an impact, cornerback Paulson Adebo has earned hype in training camp and linebacker Pete Werner will get his first NFL action as well.
Is this a guarantee that the Saints will defeat the Ravens this weekend? No. I would never guarantee anything in the preseason. Ultimately we are going to be watching many future free agents and borderline roster players duke it out for a win in the second half. Many will be blind-betting the Ravens on Saturday -- including my colleague Will Brinson of the Pick Six podcast. I am not. I'm embracing the role of contrarian and taking the Saints.