NFL betting preview: Baltimore Ravens vs Las Vegas Raiders - Jackson to start the season in style

The first Monday Night Football of the new season will see the injury-hit Baltimore Ravens trying their luck in Las Vegas against the Raiders. Planet Sport previews the eagerly anticipated clash.

Planet Sport will be covering each and every Monday night game, with a selection of recommendations to help steer your Monday night wagers.

And who better to start than with one of the biggest stars of the league leading his side into what should be a lively Allegiant Stadium.

When: September 12th, 2021

 

Time: 01:15am (BST)

 

Where: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas

 

How to watch: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports NFL

Outright odds

Las Vegas Raiders win at 7/4

Baltimore Ravens win at 4/9

Ravens @ Raiders best bets

Baltimore Ravens over 24.5 points at 4/7

Las Vegas Raiders under 24.5 points at 8/13

Baltimore Ravens -4.5 10/11

Ravens vs Raiders background

The Ravens start the game as heavy favourites against a Las Vegas side who are yet to hit full stride under head coach Jon Gruden, who is under increasing pressure to justify one of the biggest contracts in NFL history as he heads into his fourth season at the Raiders helm.

Last time out the men in silver and black finished 8-8, which was another step in the right direction after a 4-12 record in 2018 and 7-9 in 2019, but still not enough for a first playoff appearance since 2016.

Baltimore finished 11-5 last time out, but that was only enough for second place in the ultra-competitive AFC North and despite a first playoff victory with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, a 17-3 loss to Buffalo in the Divisional Round pushed last season firmly into thumbs-down territory.

And you don't need to be John Madden to know where Baltimore needs to improve this time around, as last year they led the league in rushing but had the 32nd-best passing attack.

The Ravens responded by drafting wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace and adding experience in veteran Sammy Watkins, while in Mark Andrews they have one of the best tight ends in the league.

And after season-ending injuries to running backs Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins, the last-gasp addition of the experienced Latavius Murray, alongside the ever-present threat of Jackson should mean the Ravens are as threatening as ever on the ground.

The Raiders allowed the third-most points in the league last season and the ninth-most to wide receivers, so a more balanced Baltimore attack should hit over 24.5 points with something to spare, priced up at 4/7.

The question is whether the Raiders offence can keep pace against a Baltimore defence that ranked second in points allowed per game last season and seventh in total yards allowed.

The loss of star cornerback Marcus Peters is a real blow to John Harbaugh's men but is balanced by the departure of Raiders star Nelson Agholor, who was their top wide receiver last season by some margin.

Outside of Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller, Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr looks dangerously short of weapons and while a raucous crowd should lift the Raiders, we're not sure how they're getting beyond 24 points, with under 24.5 an 8/13 shot.

Quaterback matchup: Jackson vs Carr

Jackson and Carr after their 2018 match-up
Jackson and Carr after their 2018 match-up

After winning the MVP award in 2019 courtesy of a stunning second season in Ravens colours, Lamar Jackson failed to hit the same heights in 2020, experiencing a drop in all major stats.

And while he was as dynamic as ever on the ground, ranking ninth in the entire league in rushing with 1005 yards, Jackson threw for 10 fewer touchdowns and gave up three more picks than in 2019.

This remarkably means that one of the hottest quarterback prospects of the last decade actually has something to prove heading into 2021, and if he can stay healthy that spells trouble for opposing defences!

And speaking of players with something to prove, after a Pro Bowl-calibre season in 2016 Derek Carr has failed to enter anything approaching elite statistics in the four campaigns that followed.

Last year was a slight improvement but being an average quarterback in the NFL won't get you in the playoffs unless you have the '85 Bears in defence, so once again Carr has to prove his many doubters wrong heading into 2021.

Key men

On both teams, there are playmakers who can change a game in the blink of an eye. Despite season injuries for key Ravens players, they shouldn't be slept on as they have one of the best tight ends in the league. As for the Raiders, they have one of the most underrated running backs in the league who has to ability to balance the Las Vegas offence.

Mark Andrews (Baltimore Ravens)

Andrews making a catch against the Bengals
Andrews making a catch against the Bengals

Unless your name is Travis Kelce or George Kittle you don't get much attention as a tight end in the NFL, but Mark Andrews has quietly amassed a reputation as one of the elite players in his position.

Last season he ranked top six in every major statistic among tight ends and only Kelce, Kittle and the Raiders' Darren Waller averaged more than his 50 yards per game reception average.

Calais Campbell (Baltimore Ravens)

Throughout his 13-year career, Campbell has collected 92 sacks, knocked down 54 passes, forced 14 fumbles and been named to the Pro Bowl six times, becoming a true leader of the Baltimore defence both on and off the pitch.

The signs are good from training camp and pre-season that he has put behind him a subpar campaign in 2019 where he battled COVID-19 and a niggling calf injury, and if he can reach anywhere near the heights he has previously, the Ravens pass rush will improve immeasurably.

Darren Waller (Las Vegas Raiders)

Walller celebrating after scoring a touchdown for the Raiders
Walller celebrating after scoring a touchdown for the Raiders

The Raiders have an elite tight end of their own in Darren Waller, who is every bit as important to the Raiders offence as Andrews is to the Ravens after another strong season in 2020.

Waller was third in receiving touchdowns scored and receiving yardage per game, with his importance to the Raiders underlined by the fact he was targeted 145 times in 16 games, a whopping 63 more than Las Vegas' leading wide receiver Nelson Agholor.

Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders)

One position the Raiders don't have to worry about is running back, as Josh Jacobs has started his NFL career in fine fashion, rushing for 1150 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019 and 1065 yards and 11 TDs last season.

He will once again be depended on heavily by a middling Raiders offence and if he can continue his upward trajectory it could go a long way to deciding the Raiders' fate, on Monday night and all season long.

Previous match-ups between the Ravens and Raiders

A previous match-up between the Ravens and Raiders
A previous match-up between the Ravens and Raiders

The two sides have met 12 times, once in the postseason, with the Ravens winning nine and the Raiders winning just three.

November 25th, 2018: Oakland Raiders 17 @ Baltimore Ravens 34

In his second start for the Ravens, Lamar Jackson ran for one touchdown and threw for another in a dominant Baltimore display that was a preview of what was to come in the next few seasons.

The Ravens pounded the Raiders with Gus Edwards rushing for 112 yards to add to Jackson's total of 71 yards along the ground, while Derek Carr had a game to forget, completing just 16 of 34 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown.

He also spent most of the game running for his life from Terrell Suggs and the Ravens pass rush, which led to three sacks, one of which led to a fumble returned 43 yards by the aforementioned T-Sizzle for a TD.

October 8th, 2017: Baltimore Ravens 30 @ Oakland Raiders 17

There was a different quarterback but a familiar outcome when Baltimore last travelled to the Raiders, as Joe Flacco led the Ravens to a hard-fought victory.

The former Super Bowl MVP had been under pressure after two straight losses but he rebounded with a 52-yard pass to Mike Wallace early doors that set up a 2-yard touchdown for Vince Mayles.

And when Jimmy Smith returned a fumble by Jared Cook for another score with just four minutes on the clock, the shell-shocked Raiders never recovered and fell to their third straight loss.

The only high spot was the form of Marshawn Lynch, exhibiting full Beast Mode in finishing with 159 yards and a touchdown.

October 2nd, 2016: Oakland Raiders 28 @ Baltimore Ravens 27

A look back at the Raiders' last win against Baltimore probably makes for unpleasant viewing for the Raider Nation, who must wish they still had a wide receiver of the calibre of Michael Crabtree in their ranks.

The current Dallas Cowboy racked up three touchdowns in a third consecutive road win for the Raiders, who also ended Baltimore's unbeaten start to the season in the process.

And while we're at it, Las Vegas fans would probably prefer this version of Derek Carr too, who threw four touchdowns as he continued what would be a Pro Bowl calibre campaign.

Oakland would go on to earn a 12-4 record a playoff berth, but their season ended in disappointing fashion with a wild card loss at the Houston Texans, while the Ravens ended 8-8, failing to make the postseason.