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This is another good matchup to start the Monday Night NFL schedule. The Ravens are always a threat to make the playoffs and this year seems to be more of the same, They are physical, fundamental, and confident. Meanwhile, one would think the Raiders are entering the season needing to show progress and, at the least, contend for the post-season. Coach Jon Gruden has an offense that is one of the best in the NFL and if the defense is improved, they might reach their goal. Let’s take a look at the two teams.
Baltimore is led by quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who is one of the most exciting players in the league. Last year he threw for 2757 yards and 26 touchdowns and was the team’s leading rusher, adding another 1005 yards and 7 touchdowns. They are hoping that he is sitting on a big year, but he needs to improve his downfield passing. Nevertheless, he is a nightmare trying to keep him from scrambling and making big plays out of nothing. Running back, J.K. Dobbins, enjoyed a good rookie season rushing for 805 yards and nine touchdowns, but he is starting the season on injured reserve and Gus Edwards will get the start. The Ravens led the league in rushing averaging almost 200 yards per game, but on the flip-side, their passing game was the worst in the league and averaged only 171 yards per game. So, they made boosting the receiver corps as the top priority in the offseason. They signed free agent, Sammy Watkins from the Chiefs, and if he can stay healthy he will provide a threat that Jackson needs. They are expecting continued improvement from Marquise Brown (58 catches for 769 yards and 8 TD’s) and Mark Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the business.
Defensively, Baltimore is always formidable. Their defensive front is stout and they are run on. Linebacker, Patrick Queen, led the team min tackles with 105 and he will be joined by Malik Harrison. The secondary is one of the best in the league and they are led by, Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Marlon Humphrey, and Marcus Peters. Expect the same Baltimore defense as usual.
The Raiders have quietly put together one of the best offenses in the AFC. Derek Carr threw for 4103 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2020, and he has three straight 4000 yard seasons now. He is playing at a high level but few realize it because his team hasn’t been very good. Josh Jacobs is back as the starting running back after a 1000 yard season and will be backed up by free-agent signee, Kenyan Drake. Henry Ruggs III is the leading wide receiver and will be joined by Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow to form a solid group. Tight end, Darren Waller is as good as there in the NFL and led the team with 107 catches for 1196 yards and 9 touchdowns. There is plenty of firepower on this side of the ball.
The defensive side of the ball will decide how well the Raiders season ends in 2021. A lot of effort was made in the offseason and the additions of Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson were made to improve a poor pass rush. This should help free-up Maxx Crosby and keep him from being double-teamed. If, they can get Cory Littleton to return to his form in 2019 with the Rams, the linebacking room will be a lot better. They are starting a rookie in Trevon Moehrig at safety and free agent Casey Hayward will start at corner and Las Vegas is hoping their is improved play from this group.
Baltimore comes into this game as a 4 point favorite and that seems fair. But this is the Monday night opener and the Raiders are going to play lights out similar to Dallas on Thursday in Tampa. If they can contain Jackson and keep away from stupid turnovers I think they can beat the spread.
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