The Baltimore football franchise has a storied history, and it varies greatly depending on how far back you go.
Baltimore boasted a football team as early as 1947, when a team called the Baltimore Colts played in the little-known AAFC. The AAFC would merge with the NFL in 1950, twenty years before the famed AFL-NFL merger, and the Colts would join the NFL… and last exactly two seasons. The team was contracted in 1951, only to be resurrected in 1953… after the Dallas Texans were relocated to Baltimore. The team renamed itself the Colts, after the AAFC team, kept Dallas’s blue-and-white color scheme, and carved its own glorious history… until new owner Jim Irsay relocated the team to Indianapolis in 1984.
Baltimore was then left without a team until 1996, when Art Modell relocated his legendary Cleveland Browns franchise to the largest city in Maryland. However, the Browns themselves were reinstated into the league in 1999, and most agree that Cleveland got to keep its logo, its colors… and its history. As such, the Ravens were technically an expansion team.
For its own crest and colors, Baltimore looked to an unusual source – the city’s artistic past. Perhaps its most famous artist is 19th century poet Edgar Allan Poe, who spent time in Baltimore and is buried there. One of Poe’s most notable poems is titled “The Raven,” which was overwhelmingly the fan favorite. Polls showed that the nickname resonated with fans because of its similarity to the city’s other professional sports franchise, the Orioles. The colors – a menacing purple and black, were previously unused in the NFL, and provided instant branding. Originally, the logo featured a feathered “B” on the back of a winged plaque that resembled the city’s flag. That design was scrapped in 1999 in favor of an actual raven, and that remains the team’s primary logo until today.
But regardless of history, the bottom line is this – from the moment the Ravens came into being, they were a force to reckon with.
The Ravens’ first two draft picks ever yielded Hall-of-Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis. And while a bet on the Baltimore Ravens wouldn’t have been prudent in their first four years – the team went a combined 24-39 – it was evident that the seeds were being planted for future success. More stalwart defenders were added via the draft, in the form of linebackers Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper, and cornerbacks Duane Starks and Chris McAlister. By the time the year 2000 rolled around, head coach Brian Billick had built a fearsome defense, ranked #1 in the league. After posting a 168-point differential in the regular season – a feat they would only best once, twenty years later – a futures bet on the Baltimore Ravens would pay off for the first time, as the Ravens won their first Super Bowl title.
While the team would not reach the Super Bowl again during the 2010s, it was not for a lack of talent. The Baltimore Ravens odds of winning the Super Bowl remained constant, on the strength of their defense, which now added future Hall-of-Famer S Ed Reed and perennial All-Pro LB Terrell Suggs, both through the draft. But while the defense thrived, the offense struggled, usually ranking in the bottom third of the league. This led to the team drafting QB Joe Flacco in 2008, who would go on to start as a rookie and hold down the position for a decade.
Flacco’s arrival led to a reversal of the team’s 5-11 record the previous season. A bet on the Baltimore Ravens to win the division would not pay off, as the team finished second to their newfound rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even though the Baltimore Ravens odds were long at the beginning of the season, they reached the AFC title game, where they lost to the eventual champion Steelers for the third time that season.
But Flacco’s success in 2008 sprung the Ravens to a series of five straight playoff appearances, the last of which earned Baltimore its second Super Bowl trophy. Even after losing four of their last five regular season games and stumbling into the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens odds to advance were high. Fittingly, they throttled the Indianapolis Colts in the wildcard round, then defied the Baltimore Ravens odds by beating #1 seed Denver on the road in overtime. The Ravens defense then stepped up to shock the #2 seeded Patriots in Foxboro, leading to a Super Bowl showdown with the San Francisco 49ers. Even though the Baltimore Ravens odds on that game was a +4.5, a bet on the Baltimore Ravens would’ve paid off, as the Ravens beat the 49ers 34-31, with Flacco taking home MVP honors.
For his heroics, Flacco was rewarded with a large contract. However, he failed to live up to it, leading the Ravens back to the playoffs only once in the next five years. In 2018, Flacco got hurt midseason and lost his job to upstart QB Lamar Jackson, who would proceed to set the NFL on fire in 2019 by earning unanimous MVP honors. If the Baltimore Ravens odds to win the Super Bowl were long before the season, they certainly weren’t after the season started. Jackson steered the team to a staggering 249 point differential and the #1 seed in the AFC. A bet on the Baltimore Ravens would not have worked out in the divisional round, however. Despite the #1 offense in the league, which caused most of the nation to bet on the Baltimore Ravens, who were 10-point favorites, the Titans kept Jackson in check and ousted the Ravens by a 28-12 tally.