Buffalo Bills (0-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
The Ravens had the best point differential of any team that missed the playoffs in 2018, but they also faced a very easy schedule and benefitted from a league leading +17 turnover margin, which is tough to sustain on a year-to-year basis. Teams that finish with a turnover margin of +15 or better, on average, follow that up with a turnover margin of +4.3 and win an average of 2.6 fewer games. It’s not hard to see how they could have a worse turnover margin in 2018. Not only do they face a significantly tougher schedule, but they’re also unlikely to do as well recovering fumbles as they did last season, when they led the league with a 65.85% fumble recovery rate.
Fortunately for the Ravens, they open the season with arguably their easiest game. The Bills made the post-season in 2017, but they were easily the worst playoff qualifier, finishing with a -57 point differential that was not only the worst among playoff teams, but also worse than 9 other non-playoff teams. Five of their 7 losses came by more than 10 points, as opposed to just 1 win by more than 10 points. That’s despite the fact that they finished with a +9 turnover margin. Only the Colts had a worse first down rate differential.
Not only that, but the Bills have gotten worse this off-season. They lost three starters on the offensive line and they traded capable starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Browns for a 3rd round pick and opted to start over at the quarterback position. They traded up to take Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the 7th overall pick, but he’s a raw rookie who struggled in his one pre-season start, so the Bills will begin the season with 2nd year quarterback Nathan Peterman under center.
Peterman probably won’t throw 5 interceptions every game like he did in his first career start in 2017, but the 5th round pick was not in high demand on draft day and has shown nothing to prove the league wrong for passing on him. Good quarterbacks rarely fall that far in the draft because they’re in so high demand. This line is pretty high at -7.5, but the Ravens won 7 of their 9 games by double digits in 2017 and the Bills are going to get blown out a lot this year, especially early in the season. Baltimore is missing top cornerback Jimmy Smith, so I wouldn’t recommend betting them unless this line falls to 7, but this should be a pretty easy win.
Baltimore Ravens 20 Buffalo Bills 9
Pick against the spread: Baltimore -7.5