The Baltimore Ravens are short favorites over the visiting New Orleans Saints in NFL preseason action Saturday night, according to betting lines posted on oddsboards throughout the country.
As of midweek, the consensus spread has Baltimore laying 2.5 points, with -2 available for Ravens backers at some betting shops. While most sportsbooks are dealing 36 for the total, a number bet up from a 35.5 opener, diligent ‘under’ bettors can find a stray 36.5 or two around the marketplace.
There’s a handicapping dichotomy at play for this weekend’s tilt: the Ravens’ historic streak of preseason victories vs. the Saints’ quarterback competition.
Some coaches emphasize winning in the preseason, others not so much. Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is squarely among the former.
Behind Harbaugh, the Ravens have won a jaw-dropping 17-straight preseason games, going 15-2 against the spread during the run. Since taking over as coach in 2008, Harbaugh is 37-12 SU in the preseason.
“We like to win,” Harbaugh said after a preseason win in 2019, per the Baltimore Sun. “The haters out there are going to have their own little snide comments. I think winning is better than losing.”
Quarterback Battle In New Orleans
Before you rush to the window to lay the points Saturday, consider the narrative-based-in-logic that teams whose starting QB spot is up for grabs are good bets in the preseason – the reasoning being coaches are less likely to rein the players in as they compete for a job, and the competitors have plenty of motivation to play well.
The notion strengthens when the two quarterbacks battling for the position are capable and talented, and that’s what the Saints have in Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.
“I think there’s some truth to that,” said Ed Salmons, an NFL oddsmaker at SuperBook USA in Las Vegas, said of this preseason handicapping theory. “…. The Saints have two guys who are competing. You would think at a minimum, they’re each going to get a quarter, if not more.”
Winston is the former No. 1 overall draft pick and put up impressive numbers during his stint as the starting QB in Tampa Bay. Hill, though, got the nod from coach Sean Payton when Drew Brees was sidelined for four games last season, and the Saints went 3-1 over that stretch.
While Winston and Hill have taken turns with the first-team offense, per NOLA.com, Winston has been bet to a -190 favorite at DraftKings to take the first snap for the Saints this season after opening at -140.
Next on the Saints depth chart is rookie Ian Book, a fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame, who may not be a bad option himself.
Ravens QB Situation
Quarterback rotation is a key element to handicapping preseason games. When its second-, third-, and even fourth-string guys are effective, a team can be backed with confidence.
Baltimore’s reserves will get the bulk of playing time Saturday. Coming off his second bout with Covid, Lamar Jackson doesn’t figure to get much action.
Harbaugh told SiriusXM NFL Radio (via The Sun) on Tuesday he hadn’t decided whether to play Jackson, and that if Jackson does play, it would be for a short stint.
The Ravens cut Robert Griffin III in January, leaving third-year pro Trace McSorley (3-for-10 passing for 90 yards and one TD in three career regular-season appearances) and Tyler Huntley, who filled in admirably when Jackson went out with a concussion in a 17-3 playoff loss to the Bills last season, going 6-for-13 through the air for 60 yards, and running for 32 yards on three carries.
Still, with Jackson unlikely to get a lot of reps, the Saints QB rotation has a big edge in talent and experience.
“Some of it is just teams have such a good rotation that you can’t help but win,” Salmons said of success in the NFL preseason. “…. It’s just hard to think the Ravens can be the same team in the preseason without Griffin and Jackson playing.”