Week 1 MNF Showdown: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders

by Aaron Stewart, September 13, 2021

Welcome to the first edition of Monday Night Showdown. Join your Salary Cap-tain on a voyage through the good, the bad, and the ugly of each MNF matchup this season!

Advanced stats and analytics will be utilized to identify favorable matchups and players to avoid. The purpose of this article is to paint a picture of how the teams play and matchup with one another in less than 1,000 words.

As the season continues, less emphasis will be put on last season and early season’s stats. Vegas trends will also be implemented to help predict the game flow. I’ll conclude the article with a Cliff Notes section and give the readers my prediction for the game. Let’s dive into the Willie Snead Darren Waller Revenge Game!

Vegas Trends

  • The total has gone UNDER in 6 of BAL’s last 7 road games.
  • BAL is 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games.
  • BAL is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games against LV.
  • The total has gone OVER in 5 of LV’s last 5 home games.
  • LV is 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games.
  • LV is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 Week 1 games.

Baltimore Ravens

Coming off of back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons, Lamar Jackson’s playmaking with his legs balances out his lack of passing opportunity, productivity, and efficiency. With injuries to J.K. Dobbins (ACL), Rashod Bateman (groin), and Gus Edwards (ACL), Jackson will once again be forced to offset the losses with his legs.

Jackson, like most quarterbacks, enjoys a clean pocket. He’s finished in the top-10 in Clean Pocket Completion Percentage in 2019 and 2020. When pressured, he finished in the bottom-half of quarterbacks in Pressured Completion Percentage.

2020 Pressure Rates via Pro-Football-Reference; Also, 143 Missed Tackles!?

The Raiders brought in Casey Hayward over the offseason to pair with Trayvon Mullen on the outside at cornerback. Both are top-50 in PlayerProfiler’s Cornerback Rankings and have Coverage Ratings in the top-30. Because of predicted game flow and their primary cornerback matchups, I’m not excited about either Marquise Brown or Sammy Watkins.

Brown is a better DFS than redraft play. His combination of speed and 1.85 (No. 28) yards of Target Separation against a secondary ranked in last place by SharpFootballAnalysis’ Ryan McCrystal is enticing.

 

The Raiders’ defense allowed 2,490 (No. 9) Air Yards and 580 (No. 9) attempts according to Pro-Football-Reference.

 

Mark Andrews led tight ends in 2020 with a 28-percent Air Yards Share. Andrews ranks top-10 at the tight end position across most opportunity and productivity metrics. There’s no reason why he should finish outside the top-5 at his position this week. The Raiders do not have an answer for him.

Ty’Son Williams is the last RB standing for the Ravens. Yes, Baltimore brought in veteran running backs over the past week. However, Williams should see the bulk of the carries in Week 1 while the new additions acquaint themselves with the offense. The 5-11, 220-pound RB has an intriguing Best Comparable Player in Damien Harris.

fantasy-football-dynasty-league-rankings

Las Vegas Raiders

Derek Carr was one of two quarterbacks in 2020 that finished top-10 in Deep Ball Attempts and Deep Ball Completion Percentage. The Raiders finished in the bottom-third in the league in Game Script in 2020 (-2.62). On top of that, Carr finished with a 74.2-percent (No. 9) True Completion Percentage.

This combination of information would have us believe that the Raiders’ passing game is positioned for fantasy opportunities this week. The Raiders are 4-point underdogs at home to the Ravens after all.

Unfortunately, the Raiders remain heavily committed to the run game and had the fourth-slowest Pace of Play (1.91) last season. Las Vegas doubled down on their commitment by signing Kenyan Drake to a two-year, $11 million contract.

Not much makes sense about the decisions made by Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. An assumption is that Drake and his 4.45 (91st-percentile) 40-Yard Dash was brought in as the lightning to Jacobs’ thunder. The expectation is that he will be the third-down running back that rotates with Jacobs for offensive series.

TE Targets Allowed via Pro-Football-Reference

The only receiving option to start for the Raiders is Darren Waller. Ravens allowed 120 targets and 82 receptions to the tight end position in 2020. Both finished in the 12th-highest amounts among defenses according to Pro Football Reference. Waller is the only certainty in the Raiders’ offense and finished with more top-5 performances (9) than games outside the top-5 (7).

Despite losing cornerback Marcus Peters to a torn ACL this week, the Baltimore secondary remains stacked. Led by Marlon Humphrey (PlayerProfiler’s No. 4-ranked cornerback), the secondary boasts three top-50 cornerbacks on the active roster.

Henry Ruggs’ 2020 Game Log Against Top-15 Cornerbacks

Henry Ruggs faced three top-15 cornerbacks last season. His total stats in those games were four receptions (nine targets) for 43 yards and zero touchdowns. Good luck facing Humphrey. Bryan Edwards had success (on a small scale) against talented cornerbacks. Ultimately it won’t matter unless his 6.2-percent Hog Rate and 12.0-percent Target Rate increase.

Cliff Notes

 

Cap-tain’s Conclusion

Week 1 is difficult for projections because we only have last season’s data to work with. However, I’m confident that Baltimore will still cover the spread as a road favorite. Losing Marcus Peters to a torn ACL sucks, but the Ravens had the depth in the secondary handle the loss.

With all due respect to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, running back injuries don’t move the needle much regarding spreads. Especially considering a Baltimore system that saw Mark Ingram’s last season of relevancy and produced Edwards as a former UDFA similar to Ty’Son Williams.

I’m less confident about the 50-point total for the game. Both teams are bottom-five in Pace of Play and Baltimore defense overmatches the Raiders offense in both OL-DL and WR-CB matchups. The 23.3 Implied Vegas Points for Las Vegas is too much for me to take.

 

Prediction: Ravens 27-17