Been there done that. Not my first rodeo. I’ve seen this before. I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck and I wasn’t born yesterday. All idiomatic expressions to emphasize that this is not my first time and I have reasons from experience to support my conclusions.
Now, I have noticed more and more as I negotiate my chosen profession of handicapping the National Football League through a 40th year, that my articles reflect this experienced point of view at an increasing rate. If I look back at my articles from the Oakland Tribune in the early 1980’s, I notice how often I talk about offenses and defenses and matchups along with my go-to calling card, motivational factors. While today, almost all my written information on the games are pinned to contests that fall into this category that predictably will produce this result.
Like today’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens.
While the Bills were my preseason Super Bowl pick, I see the historical significance that points to a Ravens victory today … and the example starts with the Ravens on the other side of creating this pattern.
In 2012, the Denver Broncos were completing their first year with Peyton Manning at quarterback. He had guided Mike Shanahan’s team to the best record in the American Football Conference, 13-3, earning the team the top seed in the playoffs. Then, in that first postseason game as a Bronco, Manning had the only rap on his career emerge, a loss in the postseason.
That year, the double-digit favored Broncos were upset in the Mile High City by, wait for it, the Baltimore Ravens. Denver bounced off that upset home defeat the following season and advanced to Super Bowl XLVII, where they lost to the Seattle Seahawks.
Last season, the Baltimore Ravens earned the top seed in the AFC with a 14-2 regular season record and opened their postseason play as a double-digit favorite over the Tennessee Titans … and were upset at home.
“Been there, done that, seen this before,” comes to mind as I compare what happened to the Broncos in 2012 and the Ravens in 2019.
So, what happens next?
We have a road map and if history be our guide, it is mine in this case, then the Ravens follow-up their season after their upset home loss in the playoffs with a trip to the Roman Numeral game.
Now, in September, the Ravens would not have been my Super Bowl pick based on the criteria that we don’t isolate long term wagers with short odds. For a Super Bowl choice, I’m looking for odds of 10-1 or greater, only once waylaying this pattern while picking the San Francisco 49ers at 4-1 to win it all in 1994. San Francisco did win the Super Bowl that season, and six other preseason choices with our typical long odds also collected the Lombardi Trophy … including the Ravens in 2012. This year, we got 20 to 1 or better while backing Buffalo.
But now, we have a Ravens team that stumbled through a mid-season three game losing streak while suffering the most severe effects of Covid-19 as any NFL team this year. Still, when healthy, the Ravens are the class of the league.
Five weeks ago they allowed the Cleveland Browns 42 points, and won that game while covering the spread as a road favorite, 47-42. Since that game, the Ravens defense has allowed a combined total of 43 points in four straight wins, including last Sunday’s postseason opening victory against the Titans in Nashville.
Today, they play their third straight road game, they closed out the regular season in Cincinnati, and are underdogs against a Bills team that survived their postseason opening game last week while failing to cover the spread against the Indianapolis Colts.
Right now, with the health of all eight teams left in the quest for Super Bowl LV factored into the equation, the best defense in football resides in Baltimore. Which means, according to the history I follow, today’s game is simply a rerun from the 2013 season.
Qoxhi Picks: Baltimore Ravens (+2½) over Buffalo Bills