Jake’s Takes: Baltimore Ravens Preseason Streak – How Does It Impact Betting?

August 11, 2023

Jake’s Takes: Baltimore Ravens Preseason Streak – How Does It Impact Betting?

Jake's Takes is back and this week Jake Moszkowski looks at the Baltimore Ravens record-setting preseason win streak, and what it means for Huddle's traders and NFL Preseason betting.

While the first official NFL Preseason game has already happened, the New York Jets 21-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns was just the start of the return of the NFL. NFL gamblers went out of their way to bet on the first NFL game of the preseason, which featured a less-than-stellar QB pairing of Zach Wilson and Kellen Mond. Total wagers actually increased in the Hall of Fame game this year, when compared to last season. 

Huddle’s team of traders has discussed, in an article I wrote in July, how NFL preseason games have to be treated much differently than regular or postseason affairs (Read full article here). Given that preseason games are effectively meaningless, it’s hard to gauge how much effort teams and coaches will put into games decided by guys who typically exist at the bottom of most depth charts. 

That said … The Baltimore Ravens are on a record-setting preseason run. They have won 23 consecutive preseason games, dating back to 2015. For those keeping score, back in 2015, you couldn’t even legally wager on sports in the United States outside of Las Vegas. It’s been eight years since the Ravens last lost a preseason affair. Heck, Ravens starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, who just signed a massive extension, was a freshman at Louisville the last time the Ravens dropped a preseason contest.

As things currently stand, the Ravens are the biggest favorites (-6) of Week 1, heading into their first preseason game against the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles on August 12th. While any experienced gambler knows there’s no value in putting faith in the past while betting on the future, it’s hard to ignore the Ravens streak altogether. 

Something worth noting for those interested in preseason betting is that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh does place value on preseason wins, probably more than any other coach in the NFL. He believes that winning at any point of the year helps foster a culture or mentality of winning, even if it’s in games most find meaningless. 

Does winning in the preseason actually help that cause? We look to Huddle’s trading team to find out if there’s any correlation between the winningest preseason squads and their regular season/postseason success. For those who forgot - the 2017 Cleveland Browns did go 4-0 in the preseason before going 0-16 in the regular season. 

According to Huddle’s trading team, if you look just at the first quarter, you’ll find more of a correlation to regular season success, but beyond that, not so much. Why? Because starters are more likely to play a higher percentage of snaps in the first quarter, and then not as many for the remainder of the game. The notion of starting-caliber (non-rookie) NFL players playing more than even a quarter of preseason snaps is increasingly rare.

Ultimately, the idea of a preseason (particularly for the NFL) is to evaluate the performance of individual players and help the team get ready for valuable regular season games. While people might not agree with the value of a preseason win streak, the Ravens have certainly had a lot of success plucking undrafted free agent players and plugging them into important roles after preseason success. 

Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta (and his predecessor Ozzie Newsome) places a heavy emphasis on building quality depth throughout the roster. They’ve managed to accomplish this with successful UDFA’s like QB Tyler Huntley (2020 signing), Gus Edwards (2018 signing) and Patrick Mekari (2019 signing). That doesn’t even take into account the 2012 signing of then-UDFA Justin Tucker, who has evolved into perhaps the greatest kicker in NFL history.

There are a lot of claims out there (unsurprisingly on social media) about the Ravens achieving this feat by playing their starters for more snaps than other teams, but at least last season, the analytics speak otherwise. Baltimore was mostly a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of total preseason snaps taken by players who played 15+ snaps in Week 1 of 2022. Teams in front of them included the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the surprising Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

At the end of the day, the Ravens not losing a preseason game since 2015 is quietly one of the crazier sports statistics of the past decade.