Why the Baltimore Ravens are Primed For a Bounce Back in 2022 (Fantasy Football)

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Entering the 2021 season, the Baltimore Ravens were the odds on favorite to win the AFC North (+110), they were among the top-10 favorite teams to win the Super Bowl (+1500), and Lamar Jackson had the 5th shortest odds (+1100) to win the NFL MVP.

Fast forward six months and now? Now, they’re an afterthought in the betting market, presenting us with an incredible “buy-low” opportunity for the Ravens in both the sports betting landscape and the fantasy space. Here’s why…

2021 Season Recap

Win/Loss Record: 8-9
AFC North Finish: 4th
Point Differential: 19th
Turnover Differential: 28th
Scoring Offense: 17th
Scoring defense: 18th
Total DVOA: 19th

The Baltimore Ravens had a rough start to their 2021 campaign, and it all happened before the season even started. In August, the team lost their top two RBs, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to torn ACLs. Not long after, they lost their 3rd string RB and special teamer, Justice Hill, to a torn Achilles.

Okay, sure. Running backs don’t really add much value to a team’s overall performance, but when you talk about how an offense functions if you’re giving me a choice, I’d much rather have the young up and coming back in Dobbins out there (6.1 yards per touch in 2020) rather than the aging and declining 30-year-old Devonta Freeman, who averaged 4.2 yards per touch in 2020 and 2021 combined.

Good teams should be able to overcome RB injuries. After all, it’s one of the more replaceable positions in the game. Well, that’s just the beginning for this team’s injury-riddled season. Fast forward over the course of the next few months, and here’s a list of players the team also lost due to major injury for at least a portion of the year:

  • CB Marcus Peters – ACL
  • CB Chris Westry – Meniscus
  • All-Pro CB Marlon Humphrey – Torn Pec
  • Safety DeShon Elliott – Pec/Biceps
  • Safety Ar’Darius Washington – Foot
  • DE Derrick Wolfe – Back
  • LB L.J. Fort – Knee
  • All-Pro LT Ronnie Staley – Ankle
  • LG Tyrie Phillips – Knee
  • WR Myles Boykin – Hamstring
  • WR Rashod Bateman – Groin Surgery
  • TE2 Nick Boyle – Knee

This list doesn’t include Lamar Jackson, who of course missed multiple starts due to an ankle injury and an illness, and it doesn’t include two December starters, CB Anthony Averett (Ribs), and LB Odafe Oweh (Foot).

Don’t get me wrong, the Ravens dealt with a ton of injuries in 2021, but so did a bunch of other NFL franchises. It’s easy to sit here and list every player who missed multiple weeks, but the more important thing to look at with teams who dealt with injury is whether or not the players who missed time actually matter. In other words, if you’re missing your 4th string safety, who cares? If you’re missing two starting corners, it means everything.

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Fortunately, someone else did the hard work to develop a metric that looks at how much injuries affected a team in a given season. Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) metric accounts for both absent players and those playing at less than 100%, and it gives more weight to injuries to expected starters and situational players than to expected back-ups. According to their AGL metric, no team was more affected by injuries in 2021 than the Baltimore Ravens.

What’s impressive about the Ravens despite their injury woes is that they were still in playoff contention, even in December of last year. And in Weeks 15 and 16 with the playoffs on the line, the team was missing nine defensive backs, including all four of their expected starters based on their September depth chart.

Not surprisingly, the Ravens lost both games in Week 15 and 16 as part of their seven-game losing streak to end their season. According to Football Outsiders, Baltimore racked up 191.2 AGL. It was the most by a team in their database going back to 2001, even when you pro-rate their metric for a 16 game season to compare it to prior teams before the NFL expanded to 17 games in 2021.

Image credit to Football Outsiders

The bottom line? If the Ravens get better injury luck in 2022 (and history suggests they will), they will be a much better team on the field compared to a 2021 roster that featured several backups at key positions.

2022 Strength of Schedule

Given the variance associated with the game of football, especially in the NFL, it’s important to understand that any team can win on any given Sunday. In Week 4, the Jets beat the Titans, who went on to lock up the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

However, the strength of schedule gives us context on how easy or difficult a team’s path to success might be. Let’s first start off by looking at who the Ravens play in 2022.

They obviously get their divisional opponents twice (once at home and once away), but the Ravens get the fortune of playing a 4th place schedule after they finished in the basement of the AFC North a year ago. Baltimore gets Broncos, Giants, and Jaguars as part of their 4th place schedule. The Denver matchup looked a whole lot better before Russell Wilson got traded but two games against some of the NFL’s worst franchises over the last three years in Jacksonville and New York will sure help.

But what really makes you excited about the names listed above is the fact that the AFC North plays the NFC South this season. Sure, a matchup with Tom Brady and the Bucs on the road will be difficult, but three games against the Falcons, Panthers, and Saints will be welcomed by Baltimore.

Let’s circle back for a second to the AFC North games. Of course, two matchups with the Bengals won’t be easy, but it’s not difficult to poke holes in a Cleveland Browns team who may be playing without Deshaun Watson if he gets suspended, and are we really sure Mitchell Trubisky is good enough to operate as a starter in the NFL for Pittsburgh?

According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics, which is an efficiency-based stat that looks at how teams perform, the Ravens have the easiest strength of schedule in 2021. Similarly, using projected Vegas win totals, the Ravens have the 7th easiest strength of schedule in 2022.

Historical Performance

Okay, so thus far we’ve established the Ravens should be a much healthier team in 2022, and they’ve got one of the easiest schedules in the league on paper, but none of those things matter if they’re not a team we can rely on from a performance-based standpoint. Here’s a quick look at their performance from a record standpoint and their finish in the AFC North since Lamar Jackson joined the team.

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Year Record AFC North Finish Make Playoffs?
2018 10-6 1st Yes
2019 14-2 1st Yes
2020 11-5 2nd Yes
2021 8-9 4th No

Prior to their injury-riddled season of 2021, the Ravens finished top two in the AFC North and won at least 10 games each season while making the playoffs three years in a row from 2018 to 2020. And remember, they almost made the playoffs in 2021 despite all the adversity they faced.

The Ravens have a strong front office and a great head coach in John Harbaugh, who just signed a 3-year extension this off-season. Given their recent performance and proven track record over the last few seasons, we should feel confident in the Ravens’ decision-making on the field as well. In the new-look NFL where analytics continues to gain popularity, Baltimore was one of the first organizations to embrace this aspect of football. Clearly, the results speak for themselves.

How We’re Betting the Ravens in 2022

For the reasons outlined above, my DFS Podcast co-host, Kyle Borgognoni, and I have deemed the Ravens our “All In” team for 2022. Here’s how we’re betting the Ravens in March as well as the best line we could find in the sports betting market.

Bet Best Odds Sportsbook Betz Confidence Level Borg Confidence Level
Win Total O9.5 -125 DraftKings 8/10 8/10
Ravens to Win the AFC North +225 DraftKings 6/10 5.5/10
Ravens to Make the Playoffs? Yes -130 DraftKings 8/10 8/10
Lamar Jackson to win MVP +2200 BetMGM 2/10 1.5/10

Looking for more advice on NFL futures, NFL Draft props, and NFL DFS? Be sure you’re subscribed to the DFS Podcast, as Kyle and I will be discussing all of these topics in more detail all off-season.

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