No sooner had the specifics of the NFL schedule been announced April 21 than the first week's point spreads went up at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook in Las Vegas.
If the name of the casino throws you, it's the new label on what was the old Las Vegas Hilton, and after that, the LVH. Despite the churn in names, what has not changed is that the huge race and sportsbook run by Jay Kornegay remains one of the pillars of the legal sportsbook industry in Nevada.
As many Ravens fans know by now, Baltimore opens the season at the Denver Broncos Sept. 13.
So far, the Ravens are listed as four-point underdogs. The game is also at a 53-point over/under. That's just a shade less than the highest projected point total of the NFL's opening volley of games, with the Philadelphia-Atlanta matchup being set at a 53.5-point over/under.
It may be a painful memory, but the Ravens also opened the season against the Broncos in an away game during a Thursday night contest Sept. 5, 2013. The Ravens were getting 7.5 points that evening, even though they were the defending Super Bowl champions. As it turned out, they could have been getting 21 points, and it wouldn't have been enough.
Although the Ravens had a three-point lead at halftime, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning threw for seven touchdowns and ran the Ravens out of town, 49-27.
The game this season is going to have a particularly interesting storyline, mainly because of questions surrounding Manning.
The future Hall of Famer is 39 years old, and during the final five games last season, including an AFC Divisional Round playoff loss to Indianapolis, Manning looked, frankly, kind of ordinary. During the second game of that stretch, Manning suffered a torn quadriceps against San Diego.
For those five games, he averaged 240 yards passing per game and threw for four touchdowns and six interceptions.
So football fans are wondering: Is Manning falling victim to his age, or was the so-so stretch run last season all about the thigh injury?
Obviously, the Broncos are hoping it's the latter. After all, Denver general manager John Elway fired head coach John Fox and hired former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, presumably because Elway believes a Kubiak-coached Manning-led Broncos team can win a Super Bowl.
Despite the questions facing the Broncos and their superstar quarterback, the Vegas oddsmakers still like Denver enough to make it a four-point favorite, and they respect Manning and his ability enough to push the game to a 53-point over/under.
Another Las Vegas sportsbook operation, CG Technology, formerly Cantor Gaming, has posted spreads for nearly the entire season. The only omission is Week 17, when there is always a lot of uncertainty about players being held out of games because of playoff standing ramifications.
In the CG Technologies point spreads for the first 16 weeks, meaning the first 15 games of the NFL season, the Ravens are favored in nine games, underdogs in five and a pick ‘em at Miami in Week. 13.
What the point spreads make clear is the Ravens need to run the table at home to have a shot at winning the 10 games that are typically required to crash the NFL playoff party.
The Ravens are listed as favorites in seven of their eight home games (the exception is against Seattle Week 14, when the visiting Seahawks are a one-point favorite). Baltimore is favored to win two road games -- the Week Two game in Oakland and the Week 12 game in Cleveland. And, as already mentioned, they are a ‘pick em in an away game against the Dolphins.
The Week 17 game in Cincinnati has no point spread. But if one could assume the road game against the Bengals will have meaning for both teams, it is a reasonable calculation that, right now, Cincinnati would be listed as a slight favorite.
So given the oddsmakers' forecasts for the ebb and flow of the Ravens' season, it is obvious Baltimore's historical domination at M&T Bank Stadium needs to continue for the Ravens to make a playoff run.
Daily Fantasy Sports Continuing To Form Partnerships
Seemingly, a day doesn't pass when daily fantasy sports aren't elbowing their way into the sports news.
Just as Yahoo! announced on a corporate earnings call April 21 that it was jumping into the daily fantasy sports business, daily fantasy sports market leader FanDuel announced it had advertising agreements with 15 NFL teams. One of them is the Ravens.
The Yahoo! news is enormously important, because Yahoo! already has a huge customer base for season-long fantasy sports. And daily fantasy sports industry watchers have been wondering all along whether the California-based Internet company would partner with an existing daily fantasy sports operator or strike out on its own. But in going it alone, Yahoo! hardly starts out flat-footed.
Yahoo!, as an established Internet portal and search engine -- albeit trailing Google by a wide margin -- has a built-in platform for advertising its daily fantasy sports product, something that cannot be said for current daily fantasy market leaders FanDuel and DraftKings.
Plus, as already mentioned, Yahoo! has an established base of fantasy clients as a result of its traditional fantasy sports contests.
Although Yahoo! has access to many traditional fantasy enthusiasts, there is still the challenge of converting those fans of season-long fantasy into one-day fantasy sports customers. And no one is really sure how that conversion will work out, because the season-long fantasy and short-duration fantasy experiences are two different animals, both in terms of how the contests are played and the amount of money a participant is willing to invest.