The Baltimore Ravens’ quest for a Lamar Jackson-era Super Bowl continues on Monday Night when they visit Sin City. Baltimore is +1400 on FanDuel Sportsbook to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and the Las Vegas Raiders are their first hurdle.
Online sportsbooks are not nearly as bullish on the Raiders’ chances of success in 2021. FanDuel, for instance, lists the Raiders at +1700 to win the AFC West. DraftKings Sportsbook, meanwhile, posts the Raiders at +10000 to win it all.
Baltimore opened as -5.5-point favorites, but the spread resides at 4.5 at most shops as of Wednesday afternoon.
Baltimore Ravens Overview
It’s been a tough preseason for the Ravens, who have their sights squarely trained on a Super Bowl berth. Not only did quarterback Lamar Jackson endure another stint of COVID, but key players suffered injuries as well. The loss of starting running back J.K. Dobbins to a torn ACL was the biggest blow. Injuries to wide receivers Rashod Bateman (groin) and Marquise Brown (hamstring) shouldn’t be overlooked though.
Brown has returned to practice and can tentatively be expected to resume his role as Jackson’s primary deep threat. Bateman is due back in September and won’t have the opportunity to factor into this Week 1 tilt.
Upgrades to the passing game were made, in part, to prevent the league from catching up to Jackson. Snark aside, it’s reasonable to anticipate a slower-than-anticipated start as the supporting cast gets up to full speed.
Time will tell how the revamped passing attack comes together in 2021, but the defense and ground attack are constants.
Even with the loss of Dobbins (not to mention Justice Hill), the Ravens will continue to pound the rock. Gus Edwards is a quality runner, Ty’Son Williams has earned fans, and Le’Veon Bell adds veteran depth. Of course, Jackson also has a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons under his belt. Defensively, coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale oversees a deep and talented unit that features playmakers at each level.
The disappointing injuries have curbed some enthusiasm, but the Ravens are still very much a top contender.
Las Vegas Raiders Overview
The Raiders were one of the league’s worst defensive teams in 2020. They finished third worst in scoring defense (29.9 PPG) and eighth worst in total defense (389.1 YPG). It’s not as if the unit is bereft of talent, and the hope is a new voice will help convert that talent into production.
That new voice is defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Bradley was tabbed to replace Paul Guenther, who was fired after losing 44-27 to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14. There are pockets of optimism that this unit can be a force, though the public may not buy it yet. Public perception may still have Las Vegas on the outside of the playoffs looking in. However, the Raiders finished 8-8 in 2020 in spite of a terrible defense. What would even a modest improvement on that side of the ball allow them to accomplish?
Uncertainty surrounds the Raiders’ revamped offensive line as well, though there is some expectation that the quintet will jell and be a strength, even after replacing three players. This is key as the Raiders have the talent to inflict their will on opposing defenses.
Derek Carr isn’t anyone’s idea of an “elite” NFL quarterback, but it’s fair to suggest that he’s underappreciated. His 16-game averages under Jon Gruden include a 69% completion rate, 4,069 passing yards, and a 22-to-9 TD/INT ratio.
The total is hovering between 50-51 across most shops, a number that suggests the Ravens — though comfortably favored — will have their hands full against the playmaking talent on the opposing sideline.
Third-year back Josh Jacobs struggled in some areas last season, but made strides in others. Tight end Darren Waller is overshadowed by division counterpart Travis Kelce, but he’s among the game’s top pass-catching weapons. A “tight end” in name only, Waller will likely lead the team in targets, receptions, and yards again in 2021. He’ll be complemented by second-year receivers, Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs III, who are primed to take steps forward in 2021.
The Ravens finished 2020 5-3 ATS on the road, but finished 2-3 in road games in which they laid 5-plus. Fortunately for bettors looking to back the favorites, most books are pricing the Ravens at -4.5. Market-making Circa’s 4-point spread is matched by DraftKings, and we may see additional books follow suit. Speaking of Circa, those who prefer the moneyline can find Ravens at -204 as of Wednesday afternoon.
Given the Raiders’ talent and home-field advantage, getting 5.5 points might have been enticing. That decision becomes more difficult to stomach at +4.5. The +240 opening odds they drew on the money line further paints the picture of an overmatched underdog. Those remaining bullish on an upset, however, can find them at +180 at Caesars to win outright.
The Raiders-Ravens total, 50.5 at BetMGM, is one of five matchups eclipsing 50 points at the book. Such a relatively high number here suggests we may see a healthy dose of scoring on Monday night.