When the Las Vegas Raiders paid a fortune to bring former head coach Jon Gruden out of retirement, fans expected a return to prominence to come sooner rather than later. After three seasons, fans have seen a flurry of questionable trades, two seasons with losing records, and an 8-8 season.
If he did not have a ten-year, $100 million contract, he would be firmly on the hot seat this season.
His counterpart in Week One, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, has nothing to worry about when it comes to his job security. But fans would love it if he could figure out how to get the team to the next level. Lamar Jackson recorded his first playoff win last season; can he get more than one this season?
The answer to that question starts with a win over the Raiders in Week One.
To get the team to the next level, the Ravens must improve the passing game. Revamping the offensive line after a lackluster performance by the unit in 2020 may help. But there could also be growing pains as the line gels and learns how to work together.
As for Jackson’s weapons, they added Sammy Watkins. But do not be shocked if rookie Rashod Bateman has a more significant impact.
Working Jackson under center more may benefit their passing game, or it might make it harder for him to do what he does best—scramble. While his offensive line looks good on paper, Jackson may be doing a lot of scrambling until they gel.
On the defensive side of the ball, losing Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon will hurt. Last year’s first-round pick, Patrick Queen, needs to make a massive jump to stay on the field. Overall, the Ravens defense is still one of the better ones in the NFL and should give offenses (like the Raiders) fits.
Las Vegas Raiders
With how last year’s 8-8 season played out for the Raiders, the offseason mandate should have been clear—leave the offense alone but put a lot of work into the defense. Offensively, they ranked eighth in total yards and tenth in scoring. Defensively, they ranked 25th in total yards allowed and 30th in scoring.
While they did add a lot of young talent to the defensive side of the ball in the draft and a few free agents, the offense suffered.
The front office appears to have decided to go young. It got rid of three solid, dependable offensive linemen and replaced them with three young guys. The line could still end up being fine, but it opens the season ranked 26th by PFF.
Darren Waller will be Derek Carr’s favorite target again. But for the passing game to improve, he will need Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards to elevate their respective games; Henry Ruggs III will need to start living up to his pre-draft hype.
Sports Betting Recommendation
The Raiders appear to have taken a step back while the Ravens are at least as good as last season. There is no reason to think Las Vegas will give Baltimore much of a fight in week one. Follow the public on this one (80 percent of bets and handle on Ravens) and take Baltimore to win against the spread.