Rex Ryan is done with Daniel Jones
Week 1 wraps up with Monday Night Football on TSN, as the Baltimore Ravens face the Las Vegas Raiders live from Sin City at 8:15 p.m. ET.
The Ravens are a top-four Super Bowl favourite according to oddsmakers but have been hit hard by injuries to key contributors over the past few weeks.
On the other hand, not much is expected out of the Raiders, as they profile as the bottom-feeder in a stacked AFC West.
Baltimore opened as a 5.5-point favourite, but the number has moved 1.5 points in Las Vegas’ favour primarily due to the Ravens injuries.
Bettors certainly don’t appear spooked by Baltimore’s IR list, as 78 per cent of the spread bets, and 83 per cent of the total money is backing the Ravens.
Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders
Spread: Ravens -4
Can Baltimore overcome a depleted roster?
First, it was prized rookie receiver Rashod Bateman that went down.
Then came injuries to starting running back J.K. Dobbins, and his replacement Gus Edwards.
Finally, All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters bit the dust.
Add it all up, and that’s a lot of missing talent to make up for.
Fortunately for Baltimore, they have a cheat code at the quarterback position and one of the best coaching staffs in the league.
Lamar Jackson enters 2021 looking to channel his 2019 MVP form and will lead a Ravens offence that has finished top-seven in scoring in back-to-back seasons.
Jackson, known just as much for rushing upside as his passing chops, has eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground in consecutive seasons, helping Baltimore finish first in rushing yards in 2019 and 2020.
With Dobbins and Edwards out, preseason standout Ty’Son Williams and recently added Latavius Murray will handle the running back duties.
Bateman may be down, but Jackson still has his two favorite targets from a season ago. Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews will soak up most of Jackson’s passes, while newcomer Sammy Watkins gives the Ravens a legitimate third receiving threat.
Defensively, even without Peters, the Ravens secondary is stacked. Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young are all excellent corners, while the Raiders wide receiving corps profiles as one of the weakest in the league – more on that later.
Raiders’ roster underwhelming again
We are now entering year four of the Jon Gruden experiment, and so far, the returns have not been good. Las Vegas has yet to finish above .500 in his latest tenure, posting a 19-29 record over the past three seasons.
Derek Carr is back once again, but don’t expect much production from his pass catchers outside of Darren Waller. An athletic freak, Waller was Pro Football Focus’ second highest-graded tight end in 2020 and is coming off his second straight 1,100-plus yard season.
The Raiders three-receiver set is far less impressive.
Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow combined for 14 fewer catches than Waller a season ago, producing only five touchdowns.
Las Vegas was middling on the ground in 2020, ranking 18th by PFF, and will be starting four new offensive linemen on Monday, after starter Richie Incognito was ruled out with a calf injury.
On the other side of the ball, only two teams gave up more points than the Raiders last season, while Las Vegas has finished bottom-nine in scoring defence in each of Gruden’s three seasons.
Ravens are perennial fast starters
Year after year, the Ravens start fast.
They take the preseason seriously (as evident by their 20-game preseason winning streak) and that translates into early season success.
They’ve won five straight season openers, covering the spread each time, and have outscored their opponent by 81 points in the two Week 1 games that Jackson has started.
Speaking of Jackson, he saves his best performances for prime-time games. The 24-year-old is 6-2 both straight up and against the spread under the lights and should torch what is expected to be one of the softer defences in the NFL.
Even with the recent rash of injuries, Baltimore is still a far superior team than Las Vegas.
Pick: Ravens -4