Las Vegas Raiders will host Baltimore Ravens in the opening round of the NFL 2021 season on Sunday evening. The home side still searches for the playoff ticket after three years under Jon Gruden. The visitors want to secure a playoff spot once again and try to go as far as possible.
The Raiders had an 8-8 record in 2020, which wasn’t enough to go through the regular season. They finished second in the AFC West, behind the untouchable Kansas City Chiefs. However, the hosts want to step up and improve this season in order to advance to the knockout stage. Baltimore ended the 2020 campaign as second in AFC North with a very good 11-5 record. However, they didn’t continue with their excellent displays in the playoffs, and the Bills stopped them in the quarter-finals.
Las Vegas Raiders – Will they finally reach the playoffs
The Raiders head to this match after a solid preseason during which they booked two wins. Las Vegas was better than the Seahawks and the Rams, while they suffered a defeat against the 49ers. The hosts enjoyed a good start last season and the one before, but their playoff dreams were falling apart as the campaign went. Derek Carr will be the starter at quarterback once again, but he should perform well to remain the first choice in this delicate position. Henry Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow are expected to improve, while the strong tight-end Darren Waller will remain the main target in the Raiders’ offense.
On the other hand, Las Vegas needed to address their defensive issues. As a result, they signed Yannick Ngakoue from Baltimore, K.J. Wright from Seattle, and Solomon Thomas from San Francisco. If they want to challenge the playoffs spot, the Raiders need to do much better in defense this season. The Chiefs remain the top favorites to win the AFC West again, while Las Vegas should aim for the spot just behind them.
Expected Line-Up (Offense): Kenyan Drake, Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, Alec Ingold, Kolton Miller, John Simpson, Andre James, Denzelle Good, Alex Leatherwood
Expected Line-Up (Defense): Maxx Crosby, Quinton Jefferson, Johnathan Hankins, Yannick Ngakoue, Cory Littleton, Denzel Perryman, K.J. Wright, Trayvon Mullen Jr., Johnathan Abram, Tre’von Moehrig, Casey Hayward Jr.
Quarter Back: Derek Carr
Kicker: Daniel Carlson
with best odds
Baltimore Ravens – Can they go further than the AFC semis?
The Ravens continued their excellent preseason streak and celebrated in all three prep matches. Baltimore narrowly beat the Saints, while they were more confident against the Panthers and Washington Football Team. The visitors were great in the regular season in the previous years, but they didn’t do well in the playoffs. They rely too much on Lamar Jackson, and when it comes to eliminatory games, and he gets stopped, the Ravens don’t have a backup plan. However, Jackson got an elite receiver this year, as Baltimore signed Sammy Watkins, a two-time Super Bowl participant.
However, the Ravens cannot count on J.K Dobbins for the entire season, and it is a major setback for the away side. Matthew Judon’s departure weakened the defense, but a former Chiefs’ and Colts’ superstar, Justin Houston, came to replace him. The Ravens perhaps have the best pair of cornerbacks in the league – Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. We should expect to see a great battle in the AFC North, and I won’t be surprised to see them with the Steelers and the Browns in the playoffs.
Expected Line-Up (Offense): Ty’Son Williams, Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Mark Andrews, Patrick Ricard, Ronnie Stanley, Tyre Phillips, Bradley Bozeman, Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva
Expected Line-Up (Defense): Broderick Washington, Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, Tyus Bowser, Malik Harrison, Patrick Queen, Justin Houston, Anthony Averett, Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Marlon Humphrey
Quarter Back: Lamar Jackson
Kicker: Justin Tucker
Expert Pick #1 – Las Vegas Raiders +4 @-110
Although the Ravens are a better team overall, I’m going to back Las Vegas here against the spread. With the defensive improvements and the support from the crowd, they could provide a surprise in this clash. Therefore, my first pick will be the Raiders at +4.
Expert Pick #2 – Raiders to win ML @+160
I reckon the raiders as the most improved team compared to the last season’s roster. I won’t be surprised if they win the match at their debut at Allegiant Stadium with fans. Indeed, this bet is a bit riskier, but it’s going to be my first alternative pick.
Expert Pick #3 – Under 50.5 @-110
With an improved home defense, we might see this game remaining under 50.5 points. The Ravens went Under in their last four matches overall, and since the margin is high here, it’s worth backing a smaller number of points here. I’ll take the Under as my third pick at the odds of -110.