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Baltimore Ravens Betting - A Healthy Reed + An Improved Offense = An AFC North Crown
 By Stan Simmons

Online betting players know that Baltimore is one of the most consistent teams in the NFL over recent years, but since their Super Bowl win, one thing or another has held them back. Last year, the defense lost a couple of important parts and they struggled, but they should be back with a vengeance in 2010, and with more skill players around their young quarterback, the Ravens will be a threat in the AFC this year.

Head Coach: John Harbaugh
Offensive Coordinator: Cam Cameron
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Mattison
Owner: Stephen Bisciotti
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium
Capacity: 71,008
Super Bowl Wins: 1

The Ravens were fifth in the league in rushing, led by a breakout season from Ray Rice, while Willis McGahee was a horse at the goal line. But the Ravens improved their passing attack by trading draft picks to Arizona for Anquan Boldin, while they signed Donte Stallworth, and Derrick Mason decided to re-sign. This is all great news for quarterback Joe Flacco, who improved in his second NFL season, but he was battling injuries all year, although he did battle and play through the pain. This is easily the best group of receivers the Ravens have had in a while, and Flacco will also work with Jim Zorn, who is now the quarterbacks coach after being fired in Washington, and while you wouldn't know it from his work with Jason Campbell, Zorn is actually a decent tutor for quarterbacks. The offensive line was better at blocking the run than for Flacco, and with their young pivot's injury woes, they're going to have to step up. If they can, the Ravens will have one of their best offenses in recent memory.

Grade: B

Defensively, the Ravens weren't as scary as they usually are, and you could tell that they missed the blitzing schemes of coordinator Rex Ryan, who took over the head-coaching job with the New York Jets. But the biggest problem for their NFL betting odds last year was an injury-plagued season by safety Ed Reed, who wasn't his normal dynamic self. With Reed at less than 100%, the Ravens gave up more big plays and they weren't as aggressive as usual, and the pass rush suffered. Linebacker Ray Lewis is still the heart of the defense, but Terrell Suggs didn't play up to his usual high standards. Up front, the Ravens are solid with Trevor Pryce and Haloti Ngana, but they need to get up the field more. The biggest questions come at the corners, where Dominique Foxworth and Fabian Washington are no Samari Rolle and Chris McAllister. Dawan Landry is coming into his own as a strong safety, but Reed needs to be healthy to play center field for the Ravens.

Grade: A-

Special Teams
LaDarius Webb and Chris Carr did a decent job of returning kicks and punts, respectively, but Stallworth will get some looks in the special-teams game as well. The Ravens also signed Shayne Graham, who has always been good for Cincinnati, but he missed a pair of field goals in the Bengals' playoff loss to the Jets. Graham will push Billy Cundiff, had trouble in the 30-39 yard range, going 5-of-8 last season. Sam Koch is a middle-of-the-league punt, but the Ravens are good at covering punts.

Grade: B-

The Ravens are perennially one of the league's best dark horse bets, and they wouldn't be a bad choice this year. They should challenge Cincinnati for the AFC North title while Pittsburgh sorts out their problems, and strangely, it's the defense that needs to hold up their end of the bargain. The offense should be better with Flacco and a great group of weapons, but the defense can't make the mistakes that they did last year, and it all starts with Reed's health. If he can be 100% healthy, the Ravens should be your sports betting pick to win the AFC North.

2010 Schedule (just copy-paste this from a decent source)
Sept. 13 at New York Jets - 7:00 PM ET
Sept. 19 at Cincinnati - 1:00 PM ET
Sept. 26 vs. Cleveland - 1:00 PM ET
Oct. 3 at Pittsburgh - 1:00 PM ET
Oct. 10 vs. Denver - 1:00 PM ET
Oct. 17 at New England - 1:00 PM ET
Oct. 24 vs. Buffalo - 1:00 PM ET
Nov. 7 vs. Miami - 1:00 PM ET
Nov. 11 at Atlanta - 8:20 PM ET
Nov. 21 at Carolina - 1:00 PM ET
Nov. 28 vs. Tampa Bay - 1:00 PM ET
Dec. 5 vs. Pittsburgh - 8:20 PM ET
Dec. 12 at Houston - 8:30 PM ET
Dec. 19 vs. New Orleans - 1:00 PM ET
Dec. 26 at Cleveland - 1:00 PM ET


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