If the NFL wanted to showcase its most talented teams for a football crazed market in the UK, this is not the weekend in which to do it. The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans, squaring off there on Sunday, are both having lackluster seasons. But, maybe, for precisely that reason –with these badly performing outfits perfectly matched – the game will be a dogfight.
According to the odds-making wizards at 888 Sport, Baltimore has the best of it, reigning as a 4.5-point favorite.
Worth considering: In their last three outings, the Titans covered the spread only once. On the other hand, the Ravens made bettors whole in all of their wins this season.
With the Ravens at 3-2 and the Titans hanging at 2-3, having weathered strong competition for the early part of the season, both teams badly need a win if their playoff dreams have a shot at being sweet. Taking place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a facility partly financed by the NFL and built to host American football, the game has an over/under of 40.5 points.
Each team is dealing with injuries of key offensive players: J.K. Dobbins for the Ravens and Treylon Burks for the Titans. While Dobbins is out for the season, Titans coach Mike Vrabel expressed guarded optimism for running back Burks.
Speaking with NBC Sports about the likelihood of Burks making an appearance on Sunday, Vrabel gave it a solid “we’ll see.” He expressed hope that Burks “can try to get out and start running around.”
If Burks does make it onto the practice field, his “running around” will likely be done in Tennessee. When it comes to the right time for showing up in London, each team has a different perspective. Hence, Tennessee is where the Titans will be until the last minute, before jetting to England.
Vrabel and the Titans will not cross the pond until just two days before their big game. They will put in a regular week of practice at home, get to England on Friday and, as Vrabel told Sports Illustrated, “have a Friday practice [in England], clean up a lot of the stuff that we did and then have our normal preparation for the game.”
Conversely, the Ravens showed up on Monday and began running their practice sessions in the place where they will be playing. Head coach John Harbaugh told NBC Sports that the decision is “mostly driven by the fact that we didn’t do well” in 2017, the last time the team played in England. They lost 44-17 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. For that meet, the Ravens showed up at the last minute. So, Harbaugh is trying the opposite, even as he admits, “There’s no data on when you should go out there.”
Among British gridiron fans, going out there on Sunday is not a question: Premium-seat tickets for the Ravens vs Titans showdown are selling for as much as $828. What you won’t see are clutches of UK fans tailgating before the kickoff. They like to pregame in the pub and return after the final whistle, hoisting pints, and, no doubt, crowing about wagers won while griping over those gone south.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Alamy*