Perhaps two of the NFL’s most surprising top teams, aside from the (3-0) Philadelphia Eagles and (3-0) Minnesota Vikings, are the (3-0) Baltimore Ravens and (2-1) Oakland Raiders. They meet this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for the first time since the Raiders won last year 37-33 (1pm ET, live on CBS).
In that game, Derek Carr (pictured), who is quietly having one of the best years of his career and who is ranked in the top 10 in the league in TD, completion percentage, total yards and QB rating, threw for a career-high 351 yards and three touchdowns. It was a breakout game for the young quarterback who now leads the NFL’s eighth highest scoring team and second highest in terms of yards per game.
The Raiders. Who would have thought?
But this is not your grandfather’s Raiders team. Well actually, those teams were pretty good. So this is not your father’s Raiders team. It is far removed from the group that put together losing season after losing season, struggled to get wins at home and were really just a mess.
This version of the Raiders is better built. With Carr at the helm and weapons including top receiver Amari Cooper and running back Latavius Murray, this team could be playoff bound. At 2-1, they are only a game behind the undefeated Denver Broncos for first place in the AFC West and are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers for that top wildcard spot.
Simply put, counting out the Raiders this year or in this game would be a mistake. They are undefeated on the road and Baltimore, despite being undefeated overall, has only won its three games by a total of 13 points.
Are the Ravens For Real? Just Ask their Defense.
That’s a serious question that this preview is going to have to answer before deciding on the betting predictions and picks for this NFL game. According to the major USA-friendly sportsbooks they are as the Ravens are rated circa three-point favorites with those online bookies. There are some things to consider in this game that could have you backing the Raiders instead.
For starters, as I mentioned, the Ravens three wins this year have come by a total of 13 points. They just barely beat the Buffalo Bills in week one, started down 20-0 to the Cleveland Browns before mounting a great comeback and then just got past the Jacksonville Jaguars in a low-scoring 19-17 affair. Those three teams have a combined one win between them.
Beating teams with a combined 1-8 record by a combined 13 points is not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Ravens heading into this game. In fact, given the ease their schedule has provided in the first three weeks of the season, not only should the Ravens be undefeated, but they should also be winning by greater margins.
The Ravens are 24th in the league in points per game and 25th in yards per game and they will be looking to their defense to win the game for them. That’s not saying that Joe Flacco and company can’t put together an offensive game worthy of their 2012 Super Bowl winning season. They haven’t so far and it is hard to put your money on the possibility that this could be the week they finally break out.
The Baltimore defense is very much a different story. The Ravens boast a very talented front seven that is equally matched by their secondary. The team is second in the NFL in total yards allowed, third in passing yards allowed and fourth in points per game allowed to opponents. They are top 10 in sacks and top five in interceptions and all of this was done without Elvis Dumervil, who returns to play his first game this season on Sunday.
Against Carr, Baltimore will definitely appreciate the extra help as the Raiders’ offensive line is one of the best in the league in protecting the QB as they have only allowed Carr to be sacked two times. This has enabled the young QB time in the pocket, which is why he is having such a successful season with over 860 yards passing and five touchdowns.
What Makes Oakland’s Offense So Good?
As mentioned at the beginning of this preview, the Raiders having the second best passing offense in the NFL is probably a fact that is going to surprise a lot of people. Why? Because for years their quarterbacks were nothing more than mediocre game managers, whose job was simply not to turn over the ball and do as much as they could with what they had. That being said, all of the blame can’t go on the QBs because what the signal callers had was never much in the most recent lean years.
Now 2016 is far from a lean year as at every skill position, the Raiders are very much a different and improved team.
Going up and down the depth chart, Oakland is stacked with weapons that would make the job of any quarterback that much easier. This starts at the top with Amari Cooper, who leads the team in targets with 29 and receiving yards with 270. This accounts for just about a third of Carr’s totals. Behind Cooper is the team’s leading receiver in terms of receptions, Michael Crabtree, who has 19 catches for 220 yards. Completing the threesome with over 100 yards is the bruising tight end, Clive Walford, who has 11 receptions on 16 targets for 102 yards.
In the running game Oakland has no shortage of weapons either, as Latavius Murray is just one of three backs in perhaps the league’s most successful timeshare, to have over 100 yards on the ground and over 140 all-purpose yards. Murray leads the team with 153 yards rushing on 32 attempts. He averages 4.8 yards per carry.
Offensively, the strength of Oakland’s running game is every bit the reason why the passing game has been on point. Defenses have to guard both and there is no reason this won’t also be the case on Sunday.
Our Preview’s Oakland Raiders vs Baltimore Ravens Betting Predictions & Picks
The Ravens have their first shot of the season to silence their doubters and to answer the question this preview poses – are they for real? A good showing on Sunday would go a long way. The same goes for the Raiders, who while they have played a tougher schedule, could use the win to test their own offense’s legitimacy. Oakland has not faced a defense as good as Baltimore’s so this is big for them.
So coming to my betting predictions for this game, the spread is 3.5 points in favor of the home team but I would advise taking the Raiders and the points. Even if Baltimore manage to win, their three previous wins came by less points than that and against lesser opponents than Oakland.
- So the pick here is to bet on the Oakland Raiders +3.5pts @ -117 with BetOnline Sportsbook. It is -120 with Bovada, and 5Dimes are +3pts for odds of +105.
- As for the game’s total points, I like the under on 46pts because while Baltimore’s offense might not be that good, their defense is without question. Here there is no disparity among the recommended usa sportsbooks with all of Bovada, 5Dimes and BetOnline going -110 odds for our pick of under 46 points.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.