We are mere days away from the 2021 Raiders campaign beginning, and it’s about time to take a look at their opponents for Week 1 in the Baltimore Ravens.
One thing that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are probably the best at is frontrunning, and early season games are where Lamar likes to get out to big starts. In 2021, he kicks off his season against the Las Vegas Raiders, who may not be as easy a task as one may think.
Last year, they got out to a big 1-0 start after smacking the Browns 38-6 at home. Two years ago when Lamar got the MVP, they beat up on the Dolphins 59-10 in Miami to start their season as well.
Opening days tend to favor Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, so looking ahead to this year’s Week 1, the Raiders are facing a team that is raring to go on all fronts.
But not only do the Ravens notoriously get out to hot starts under Lamar Jackson, but they have also become a notorious front-running team in the context of a single game. One game that stood out to me last year was the Browns game in Cleveland, where the two went back-and-forth in one of the best games of the year to wind up 47-42.
That was a game we saw Lamar Jackson show resolve and the fortitude to come back and steal a victory. There haven’t been many of those in the short career of Lamar from my vantage point. This is a Ravens team that most likely needs to get out in front of you and have you chase them instead of the other way around.
Raiders have a real chance against Baltimore
If we look at the Ravens roster compared to the Raiders, Baltimore clearly has the advantage, but the Raiders have also developed a bit of notoriety in this league the past couple of seasons for playing up to better competition and stealing the show early on in the season.
The second half of the year has obviously been a train wreck for the Gruden era, but the first half, now that is where the Raiders shine, which is why I wouldn’t count them out in this opening Ravens game, especially with it being home in Vegas. Remember the Monday Night Saints game last year? The Raiders have proven they can go up against better teams on paper early in the season and pull off the upset.
But their battle will be a tough one considering what the Ravens have waiting for them on both sides of the ball.
The Ravens are a bit of a weird team for me this year; I can’t really figure them out nor do I know right now what their ceiling can be. I tend to favor them to win the division, but then again Cleveland’s roster is better and now they have the confidence to carry momentum into 2021. So, I’m still torn on where the Ravens finish up this season in the division and AFC in general.
But offensively, we know they’re going to be elite running the football and the Raiders were one of the league’s worst rush defenses a year ago. However, the Raiders have bolstered the linebacker group this offseason out of necessity, with Denzel Perryman and K.J. Wright joining the team in recent weeks.
Defensively, it’s hard to argue the Ravens aren’t as lethal as they were a year ago considering they lost only Matthew Judon and replaced him with Justin Houston.
The defensive line and pass rush should be legit as well as the linebacker play from Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, and then of course the strength will be the secondary with perhaps the best assortment of corners in the league right now in Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, and Marcus Peters.
Offensively, it’s hard for me to see the Raiders doing much against the Ravens defense on paper, but where they can take full advantage is in their own pass-rushing game because the Ravens’ weakness right now is undoubtedly their O-line.
They’ll be fine running the football because they have an elite scheme and an elite talent in Lamar, but pass blocking has been an issue for them the past couple of years and now the personnel group has taken a step back with Orlando Brown Jr. now in Kansas City. Interior O-line protection has been the real issue and the addition of an aging Kevin Zeitler is not going to cut it.
The Raiders revamped their pass rush this offseason by adding Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson, and Solomon Thomas, so this is their opportunity to send a message that this year’s Raiders pass rush is one to fear.
I give the Raiders a puncher’s chance against the Ravens on opening day and I’m very interested to see if they can pull off a huge upset.