Tonight, we close out the first week of the 2021 season. The Super Bowl-aspiring Baltimore Ravens head to Las Vegas for the first Raiders’ home game with fans in Allegiant Stadium. Let’s dive into a Ravens vs. Raiders spread pick and determine the best NFL betting predictions for this Monday Night Football matchup.
Monday Night Football Pick: Ravens vs. Raiders’ prediction
The injuries have begun to pile up for the Ravens, and the public is starting to notice. With a line settling between a 4-4.5 margin of victory for the Ravens, nothing changed with the injuries Baltimore announced.
Particular sportsbooks have a larger public handle on the Raiders +4, which lends itself to the “fade the public” philosophy. Regardless of where the money is going, the reasoning behind this Ravens vs. Raiders prediction comes down to pure stats.
Both the Ravens and QB Lamar Jackson have become the epitome of consistency. In eight of the 13 seasons that John Harbaugh has been the head coach, they have won at least 10 games. Jackson himself has a 30-7 overall record as a starter, and only two of those seven losses have been by more than 6 points. These factors lead to an easy Ravens pick in this game.
Entering his third season in the NFL, Jackson is one of the premier talents in the league. He’s efficient as a passer and possesses the elusiveness to burn opposing defenses for significant gains under any circumstance. His rushing ability naturally increases the running backs’ efficiency due to the unpredictability of who will carry the football.
The recent injuries are a concern. However, the Ravens’ running attack shouldn’t be hindered with Jackson leading the way due to the talent they have signed and drafted. With Le’Veon Bell, Latavius Murray, and Devonta Freeman added to projected lead back Ty’Son Williams, the Ravens will be just fine at the position.
Regarding defense, Baltimore has one of the deepest units in the league. Losing cornerback Marcus Peters for the season was a massive blow. Nevertheless, they should still be able to finish the season as a top-10 defense.
Harbaugh is also in the elite class of coaches in today’s NFL and should be able to compensate for any on-field hiccups that may occur. These factors all come into play when determining the pick in this Ravens vs. Raiders prediction.
Last year vs. years past
The 2020 season for the Ravens was an anomaly, but that can be said about most teams dealing with unforeseen circumstances. In 2019, Baltimore ran behind center 68% of the time, leading to the best run offense in the league. In 2020, however, they dropped significantly down to 47%. Not only did the percentage rate fall 21%, but they also were less efficient when they called these designed runs.
This led to an offensive line overhaul by the Ravens in which they added OT Alejandro Villanueva and OG Kevin Zeitler. Jackson was pressured 52% more last season than in 2019, and his sack rate went up 33% as well. As expected, with increased pressure comes decreased passing efficiency.
On five to seven-step dropbacks, Jackson’s success rate fell 28% compared to 2019, and his EPA per attempt fell 0.51 points. In 2020, the offensive line allowed too much pressure compared to the previous year, which affected overall production. With a revamped line, Baltimore should be able to regain its form from two years ago.
When discussing the Raiders’ consistency, it is not of the good sort. Las Vegas has had one winning season since 2003 — the worst in the league. Jon Gruden is also 19-29 (39.6% win percentage) as the head coach of the Raiders.
In 2018, Gruden inherited a Raiders team ranked 13th in offensive efficiency and 29th defensively. Three years later and they ranked 15th offensively and 28th defensively. Not much of an improvement for a coach who revamped the entire roster and has had the luxury of multiple high picks.
The Raiders had Amari Cooper as their WR1 and Michael Crabtree as their WR2 in 2017. In 2021, they have Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards as their leading WRs. That would be a considerable drop in talent in most eyes.
They also traded away the anchor of their defensive line, Khalil Mack, and haven’t done much with their compensation. Las Vegas did improve the tight end position from 2017 to 2021 by adding Darren Waller, so there’s that.
Raiders’ offensive line and defense
Las Vegas gutted the offensive line this offseason, which was the best unit on their team and one of the best in the NFL. Yes, quarterback Derek Carr was second-best last season efficiency-wise under pressure, but what will happen when he’s constantly under pressure with a depleted starting five?
The Raiders have shown zero improvements in their secondary, which remains one of the worst in the league. The group has not ranked higher than 26th since 2017, while they have continuously spent high-end draft picks to try and alleviate the issue. If Jackson’s passing ability was a concern, this should make a Ravens pick easier.
Las Vegas’ positional rankings are among the bottom half in the league in nearly every position — minus quarterback and running back. The Ravens’ deep and stout defense should neutralize the lone bright spots on the Raiders enough for a 7-to-10-point victory.
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Ravens vs. Raiders NFL odds, prediction, and pick
Two things travel well in the NFL — a run game and a defense. Thankfully for the Ravens, they have both. Baltimore is about to enter a harsh environment during the first-ever home game with fans for the Las Vegas Raiders. Not only does Baltimore have a good run game defense, but they should be able to handle the unpredictable home-field advantage Vegas has.
Top to bottom, Baltimore has the better team. They’re better on offense, defense, depth, special teams, and head coach. If this game were on a neutral field, the Ravens would likely be 5-to-6-point favorites. And if this were in Baltimore, it would probably be closer to 7 to 8 points. I’ll be taking the Super Bowl-contender Ravens and lay the 3.5 points as my pick in a decisive win over the Raiders on Monday Night Football in Week 1.