NFL: Raiders vs Ravens MNF Preview


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The Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders will face off at Allegiant Stadium for an AFC season-opening showdown on Monday, Sept. 13. The game will mark the 13th meeting in a series that the Ravens lead by a 9-3 margin. The most recent game between the teams unfolded in Week 12 of the 2018 season, with the Ravens notching a 34-17 home victory.

In that game, Derek Carr threw for just 194 yards while absorbing three sacks. On the other side, then-rookie Lamar Jackson complemented his 178 passing yards and one passing touchdown with 71 rushing yards and another score on the ground.

MNF ODDS AND BETTING BREAKDOWN

Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders – 8:15 p.m. ET

The line for this season-opening conference clash has opened with what is arguably a surprisingly narrow advantage for the visitors, which enjoyed another successful regular season in 2020 before bowing out against the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round of the playoffs. As noted above, the Raiders weren’t poor performers versus the line a year ago, but the Ravens were particularly impressive, especially when traveling.

Baltimore will bring what should be a more complete offensive unit into this matchup as compared to its 2020 version. The backfield has garnered a bit more clarity with the departure of Mark Ingram, while the receiving corps was fortified with the additions of Sammy Watkins and rookie first-round pick Rashod Bateman.

The combination of an elite ground attack and defense has long helped the Ravens travel very well – they own the sixth-best won-loss record (60-57) and third-best mark ATS (64-47-6) on the road during John Harbaugh’s 13-season tenure as head coach. Nothing is expected to change in that regard in 2021, and the fact this West Coast trip comes in the first game of the season should nullify any potential adverse effects of the multi-time-zone trip involved.

The low 50s projected total for this game is likely to hold fairly steady over the coming weeks and months, barring any serious injuries to skill players on either side. The Ravens averaged 27.3 points per game last season (25.7 PPG on the road), while the Raiders averaged 28.0 points per home contest in their own right. However, the major impetus for this total is the suspect Vegas defense – Jon Gruden’s squad gave up a whopping 30.8 points per home game in 2020.

  • The Ravens were 11-7 (61.1 percent) against the spread last regular season and postseason, including 6-4 (60.0 percent) as a road team and 9-5 (64.3 percent) in conference games. Then, the Over was 7-11 (38.9 percent) in Baltimore’ games last regular season and postseason, including 3-7 (30.0 percent) in its away games and 4-10 (28.6 percent) in its games against conference opponents.
  • The Raiders were 8-8 against the spread last season, including 4-4 as a home team and 6-6 in conference games. Then, the Over was 12-3-1 (NFL-high 80.0 percent) in Las Vegas’ games last season, including 6-1-1 (85.7 percent) in its home games and 9-2-1 (NFL-high 81.8 percent) in its games against conference opponents.

    RAVENS VS. RAIDERS MATCHUP

    This Week 1 finale shapes up as a battle between a perennial contender and a franchise desperate to get back to that status after going from 4-12 in the first year of Gruden’s second tenure as head coach in 2018 to 8-8 in 2020. Gruden presumably has ample job security courtesy of his 10-year, $100 million contract, but that certainly doesn’t equate to an absence of urgency to get back into the playoffs in the coming season.

    That quest won’t exactly get off to the easiest of starts, however. The Ravens had few weaknesses a season ago, particularly on pass defense. Baltimore allowed the sixth-fewest passing yards per game (215.7), including just 207.4 per road game, including the postesason. The starting secondary plus key backups Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith return this season and threaten to make life difficult for Carr and his revamped group of pass catchers right from the start. In addition to last year’s first-round selection Henry Ruggs and fellow incumbents Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards, the Raiders also brought in veterans John Brown and Willie Snead to give Carr a nice boost in ammunition after the departure of Nelson Agholor this offseason.

    Gruden and offensive coordinator Greg Olson leaned heavily on the run a season ago, posting the 10th-highest rushing play percentage (44.1) in the league Josh Jacobs led the way with a 1,065-yard, 12-touchdown season on 273 carries, but that equated to a pedestrian 3.9 yards per rush. The addition of another starting-caliber back in Kenyan Drake (955 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs for Cardinals in ’20) should help keep Jacobs fresh over the course of the season, but for the purpose of this Week 1 matchup, there’s no getting around the fact sticking stubbornly with the run may be counterproductive — Baltimore finished the regular season allowing just 108.8 rushing yards per game.

    On the other side, Jackson and teammates should have two appealing paths through which to attack. The Raiders finished ranked in the bottom 10 in both rushing yards (125.8) and passing yards (263.2) per game allowed a season ago, and they were particularly poor against the pass at home (294.6 PYPG allowed). The inking of two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward and the drafting of a player considered by many to be the best safety in his class, Trevon Moehrig, should pay dividends over time, but there could be an early-season acclimation period that Jackson, Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews, Watkins and Bateman could potentially exploit.

    While there have been rumblings Baltimore will try to sport a more balanced offense after generating an NFL-high rushing play percentage (55.0) a year ago, the ground attack can’t help but be robustly featured on a team with Jackson and the Dobbins/Gus Edwards combination. The passing game will undoubtedly be called upon for a heavy lift in some games, but this Week 1 contest may not be one – Vegas gave up 125.8 rushing yards per game and 4.8 RB yards per carry in 2020.

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