The Baltimore Ravens looked like a marquee team to place a futures bet in 2021. Then came the endless injuries. The Ravens, whose offensive system takes you back to the good old days of legit, smashmouth, sandlot-style football, has seen nothing but the worst.
First, RB1 J.K. Dobbins went down with a major knee injury. Enter Gus Edwards, who is more than capable of carrying the load that you would expect from an RB1. Then he went down for the season. All of a sudden, Justice Hill became the RB1. Yep, he’s also out for the year.
But it’s not just on offense; Marcus Peters, their top corner and arguably the best corner in football, is also out for the season.
Now, the Ravens do not look like the marquee futures bet you thought you placed a month ago.
Here’s what the experience should teach you.
Never Bet Too Early
I remember, back in the day, when we held fantasy football drafts in July. We were in high school at the time and we were too excited to wait. Problem was, training camp and preseason often had other ideas, and it decimated some of what were otherwise talented teams.
You can make the same correlation with NFL futures betting. If you make a futures bet too early (Super Bowl odds are literally out about 20 minutes after the previous season ends), you’re taking a massive, unnecessary risk here.
It seems like at least one team who would otherwise contend for the playoffs gets hit with the injury bug. The Ravens are clearly that team in 2021, and they should teach you that placing an early bet is rarely a good idea.
Sure, it’s exciting. And yes, the odds are always slim-to-none with Slim about to catch a bus out of town that your team will see a few cornerstones out for the season, or at least with significant time. But it happens, and you always need to assume it’s going to happen to your chosen team.
The best way to remedy this is to at least wait until the week-and-a-half between the last preseason game and the first game of the season before you consider making any futures bets. They’re fun to talk about in May, June, and July.
But if you’re looking to lower your risk, wait until you know your team is healthy.
Always Exercise Caution on Teams With Fringe Quarterbacks
You may fight me on this one, but Lamar Jackson has yet to prove himself as a passer. Yeah, he has an MVP on his resume, even if Patrick Mahomes was the player that took his team to and won the Super Bowl in 2019.
Before Mahomes’ arrival, the Chiefs were good, but not Super Bowl material. Mahomes put them over the top, and he now has 2 Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl Championship (plus an MVP) to his resume. This is what MVPs do: They catapult their team over the top.
Jackson has never done that. His predecessor, Joe Flacco, led the Ravens to the AFC Championship in his rookie season. In his fifth season, he led them to and won the Super Bowl. Jackson has always leaned on his running game and it should teach you a valuable lesson about betting on NFL teams with fringe quarterbacks.
Quarterbacks who play well in a specific system but are not good enough to lead their team to routine wins when called upon. Baker Mayfield is in that category. Ditto for Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, and even Josh Allen.
Quarterbacks who either struggle with their accuracy or who need a strong running game and defense to win football games. Look, the quarterbacks mentioned above all play for teams that are also good Super Bowl bets.
- What if Mayfield loses Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt? The Browns don’t even make the playoffs.
- What if Tannehill loses Derrick Henry? The Titans are an average football team.
- Ditto for Kirk Cousins without Dalvin Cook. Garoppolo has a solid defense and a committee of backs to bail him out.
Allen didn’t get hot until Stephon Diggs arrived in Buffalo.
Jackson is in that category. And when you place a bet on teams whose quarterbacks have yet to prove they can win games on their own, they’re often risky bets as is. And they grow riskier when their key players miss time with injuries.
Marquee Quarterbacks Make Safer Futures Bets
What if Russell Wilson lost his best running backs?
You wouldn’t blink. Ditto if Aaron Rodgers lost Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon – despite their poor showing in Week 1 to the New Orleans Saints. What if Kyler Murray lost Chase Edmonds and James Conner? Who? Exactly.
They can pick up their teams and carry them to wins. Rodgers, Wilson, and Mahomes have done this numerous times. Especially Rodgers and Wilson. Murray has never made the playoffs, but he has become one of the league’s best quarterbacks with a lesser-talented team.
Regardless of how mediocre the Cardinals are talent-wise, you can count on Murray to make plays. If DeAndre Hopkins went down tomorrow, the Cardinals still have Rondale Moore, A.J. Green, and Christian Kirk. Not a solid group. But a group that Murray can take advantage of and hold the fort with.
Wilson never had a good running game in Seattle. Or at least since Marshawn Lynch retired and went elsewhere. Not counting the 2 playoff games he played in as emergency relief, anyway, a few seasons back.
Next to Davante Adams, Rodgers also has a barren receiving unit. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are role players. Robert Tonyan didn’t breakout until 2020 with Aaron Rodgers.
Even a younger Tom Brady did this every year. It didn’t matter who lined up next to Brady during his heyday; he made those around him better and the Patriots were always a legit Super Bowl contender.
Sure, Brady just won the Super Bowl, but at 44, he’s on the fringe side. He has one of the best football teams in football around him, including what might just be the league’s best receiving trio.
What these last 2 sections are saying is this: Legit franchise quarterbacks are always the better bet than fringe, system quarterbacks. Even if the latter appears to produce pretty statistics and commit a low number of turnovers. When their system breaks down, their entire team breaks down.
As for quarterbacks that thrive regardless of who surrounds them, their teams always make the safer futures bet.
At Least Make a Backup Bet
If nothing else, make a backup bet. So if you need to bet on the Baltimore Ravens or a team with similar quarterbacks that play in a particular system, it’s best that you bet on at least a team with a quarterback that can at least elevate the talent around him.
Yeah, a month ago we could consider the Ravens, Browns, Bills, and Titans as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. And to be honest, the Minnesota Vikings were no slouches.
You don’t often see this with teams like the Packers, Seahawks, and Chiefs, among others. Even the Steelers, where it’s clear Ben Roethlisberger is still one of those quarterbacks who can lead his team to wins even at age 39. Without leaning on the running game, even if he has a good defense.
We have signed QB Ben Roethlisberger to a new contract for 2021.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 4, 2021
The only risk with the aforementioned teams and quarterbacks in the above paragraph is that if they go down with an injury and miss extended time, you’re looking at a potential meltdown. But it’s far less risky of a bet when you realize that none of the above have missed extended time in a while.
So the Ravens can teach us this huge point: Feel free to bet on a talented team with a fringe talent at quarterback. But there is always more risk when you bet on such teams. Therefore, place at least one more bet. A safer bet, on a team with a quarterback that can elevate anyone’s talent around them.
The Baltimore Ravens can still salvage this. What’s not to say Jackson doesn’t evolve into a marquee quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Ben Roethlisberger? He’s young enough to.
But given his inability to show mid-to-deep throw accuracy, it’s easy to assume Jackson and his Ravens have hurt a lot of bettors. Much like the 49ers defense hurt bettors in 2020. And Garoppolo is in the same fringe category as Jackson. Even before his own injury.
What are your thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens? Did you place a futures bet on them? Would you have done so had you known J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards would miss the entire season?
Let us know in the comments.