The Ravens certainly made a show out of beating predictions and records last season, and it appears as if Vegas oddsmakers are set on making sure that the Ravens aren’t able to outpace any of their projections this year. Of course, sportsbooks have listed Lamar Jackson’s MVP odds at a staggering +600 (second-best odds of any player). Of course, they have given the Ravens the best odds to win Super Bowl 55 (tied with Chiefs at +650).
Who wouldn’t? The Ravens had the league’s best player in Jackson on their team last year and only improved this offseason. It’s logical to give Lamar Jackson and the Ravens such good odds when it comes to their chances of winning shiny awards and hefty trophies. Logical bets seem to end there, however. Back in mid-July, Caesar’s Sportsbook released their game-by-game predictions for every team in the league. The Ravens were the only squad predicted to win every single game on their 2020 slate. Only one time in modern NFL history (since 1978, when the league created a 16-game regular season) has a team gone undefeated. You may remember that team as the 2007 New England Patriots, who later lost in the Super Bowl to Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Needless to say, going 16-0 is incredibly hard and very unlikely. In this article, I’ll cover some of the factors that could impede the Ravens’ goal of not losing a game this season, and I’ll try to give you my best guess as to if the Ravens will finish the regular season without a loss.
Obviously, the strength of the Ravens’ opponents is the most significant factor in how the team will fare. The Ravens have the easiest regular season schedule this year out of any team in the league, facing opponents who had an average winning percentage of 0.438 (equivalent to a record of 7-9) last year. That should bode well for their chances of not dropping a single game this season.. right?
Well, not exactly.
While that percentage is low, there are still a few very talented teams that the Ravens must get through to maintain a perfect record. The most likely team to present a challenge is the Kansas City Chiefs, last year’s Super Bowl champion and the squad responsible for two of Lamar Jackson’s three career losses in the regular season. It feels like the Ravens are due to finally get a win over Kansas City since this will be the first match-up between the teams that is hosted in Baltimore. I’m predicting that the Ravens will win this game for a variety of reasons, many of which I might have to dive into in an entirely different article. Still, a win against the Chiefs in Week 3 most definitely does not guarantee a perfect record. One of the reasons that a 16-0 record is nearly unattainable is the fact that a team can never have a bad, underwhelming, or unlucky performance. That’s a tall order, considering that there is almost always at least one game in every team’s season where they were upset by an inferior squad. In fact, this unfortunate occurrence usually happens more than once every season to a single team. Since 2015, there have been six weeks where the underdogs (based on Vegas betting numbers) have won the majority of that week’s games. That may not sound like a lot considering there have been eighty weeks of regular season football since 2015, but that statistic only considers the weeks when the underdogs won the majority of the games. Broaden that range to the times when underdogs won about 30%-45% of a week’s games, and that figure gets a lot bigger.
My point is that historical data suggests that the Ravens are bound to lose at least one game to a team that they should beat. It takes a lot of luck for a team to never have a bad game, even if that team is superior to their opponent in every department of a roster.
The other aspect to consider when trying to predict the probability of a team going 16-0 is actually the unpredictability that accompanies an NFL season, especially in terms of injuries. Whether it be a surprise torn Achilles, an unexpected concussion, or a case of COVID-19, any sort of tear, break, or infection that hits a key player can derail a team’s championship aspirations. Last season, the Ravens had nearly zero significant injuries on offense. They had the fewest total offensive injuries of any team in the NFL, which undoubtedly played a role in the team’s successful rushing attack and Lamar Jackson’s MVP campaign. On the other end of the injury spectrum, the Ravens suffered the second-most defensive ailments last year. Consequently, the defense was inconsistent and struggled periodically in various position groups. This type of variation seen on teams’ injury reports is not uncommon. It is nearly impossible to avoid significant injury on both sides of the ball for 17 straight weeks. If some of the Ravens’ star players happen to run into some unfortunate injuries, their 16-0 hopes could be in jeopardy.
If we take a look at the 2007 Patriots (the only undefeated regular season team in the modern era), they lost just three starters to injuries throughout their entire season. That’s a pretty small number and one that the Ravens will need to match if they want to maintain their shot at reaching Vegas’ predictions of a perfect season.
If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I am not optimistic about the Ravens’ 16-0 hype. Theoretically, they should beat the Chiefs, and they should defeat all of the underdogs they face, and they should be able to avoid having a player catch a case of coronavirus due to the NFL’s strict quarantine policy. However, at the end of the day, it really is impossible to predict what could happen this season. After all, we are living in one of the most bizarre, most unpredictable times in history. The Ravens will likely lose a few games in the coming months, but for now, they have as good of a chance to go 16-0 as any other team in the NFL.
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