Baltimore begins their 2021 campaign coming off an 11-5 season a year ago, starting as -4 point road favorites in the week 1 Ravens at Raiders matchup. There’s definitely some value on Las Vegas, as Jon Gruden and company finally get to have full capacity fans present in the 65,000 seat Allegiant Stadium – and on a Monday Night national stage game to boot.
55% of public bettors like the Ravens on MNF despite Baltimore being pretty banged up. John Harbaugh is down J.K Dobbins and Gus Edwards, making him turn to Latavius Murray and Le’Veon Bell who were just signed in the past week. The Raiders beat the Saints 34-24 in last year’s home opener (also on Monday night) so is LV+4 the play?
Pressure on Jackson on Monday Night
There are definitely worse options to have to rely upon to get a win than 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson, who completed 64.4% of his passes last year for 2757 yards while also running for 1,005 yards. Part of what made Jackson’s success possible was the presence of Dobbins and Edwards in the backfield (1,528 total rush yards and 15 TD) but those two are lost for the season with injuries.
The Ravens had the #1 rushing attack in the league last year to go along with the #32 passing offense, so they really have adjustments to make heading into the season opener. Jackson has some nice targets in Mark Andrews (58-701-7TD) and Marquise Brown (58-769-8) but have also been hit hard by injuries out wide as 1st round pick Rashod Bateman starts the year on the IR with a groin injury.
Injuries not only increase pressure on Jackson, but also the Baltimore defense that also suffered a big loss with CB Marcus Peters tearing his ACL in practice the same day Edwards did. Baltimore had a top 10 defense last year, but the loss of Peters is a huge blow. The Ravens are also no spring chickens up front, with their entire starting defensive line in the 3-4 defense being 30+ years old.
Should Raiders Be Favored?
The Vegas Golden Knights own one of the best home ice advantages in the NHL due to the raucous Sin City crowd, so will we see that start to become evident in the NFL when the Raiders play their first game in front of a capacity crowd on Monday night? LV was just 2-6 at home in 2020, but that was with no fan attendance.
Overall the Raiders were 8-8 last year, but there are a few reasons to be optimistic heading to 2021. Las Vegas showed they can hang with anybody, beating the Chiefs in week 5 and losing to KC by just 4 points in week 11. LV was a top 10 offense in total yards and passing yards, led by a 4,100+ yard passing season from Derek Carr and 107 catches for 1196 yards from Darren Waller. Kind of lost in that shuffle is the fact that Josh Jacobs also ran for 1,065 yards on the ground last year. Jacobs (illness) is questionable for the season opener though.
The Raiders have the balanced offense, they just need the defense to hold their end of the bargain up on Monday night. LV had a bottom 6 defense in 2020, but should be better just with the signing of Yannick Ngakoue (from these Ravens), the drafting of Trevon Moehrig in the 2nd round, and the signing of Gus Bradley to be the new coordinator.
Week 1 Ravens at Raiders Pick
Las Vegas should be the favorites in this contest, so getting them with points is a steal. Even if Jacobs sits, the team did sign Kenyan Drake in the offseason and have a new offensive line powered by #1 pick Alex Leatherwood. The Ravens have nobody to run the ball, and with Peters out in the defensive backfield speedy Henry Ruggs can run wild through the Baltimore secondary.
Raiders 28 – Ravens 24
Free Pick: Raiders +4