Top Monday Night Football Props To Bet: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Baltimore Ravens
Derek Carr Over 0.5 Interceptions (+135) - DraftKings
Blitz-heavy teams got the best of Derek Carr last season. Using ProFootballReference’s numbers, the Raiders faced eight defenses last season who ranked above-average in blitz rate -- Carr threw a pick in five of those games. Every defense he faced who ranked in the top-eight in blitz rate snagged an interception off of him, save for the Dolphins in Week 16. Getting Carr in his own head with regards to pressure is a good way to knock him off his game.
The Ravens don’t need to change anything about their game plan to take advantage of this trend. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s defense has ranked first in blitz rate in each of the last three seasons. Baltimore’s ability to scheme up pressure predates Martindale taking over the job in 2018, but he has turned up the frequency as high as it gets while still keeping those pressure looks fresh. It’s no wonder the Ravens have been one of the league’s most suffocating defenses over that span.
If these two things were not enough, Las Vegas lost center Rodney Hudson, who still has a case as the best center in the league. Carr and Hudson worked well in tandem for years, keeping their protections sound to make sure they had everything blocked up on passing plays. It was a core factor in the Raiders’ offense sustaining a high floor of play despite some of the team’s other deficiencies. With Hudson out the door and former backup Andre James taking over, things could be sloppier up front for the Raiders for a few weeks while they iron things out.
Henry Ruggs, Under 34.5 Receiving Yards (-110) - DraftKings
Henry Ruggs III could certainly take a step forward this season. With last year’s breakout stud Nelson Agholor gone to the Patriots and 2021 free agent signing John Brown asking for his release earlier this offseason, Ruggs is now the team’s lone deep threat and should see an uptick in targets down the field. The recipe is there for him to prove his draft status. If that happens, though, I don’t think it will start to show until after this week.
Allowing explosive pass plays is not something the Ravens do. In 2019, the Ravens finished with the 11th-best mark in explosive passing plays allowed, climbing all the way to second-best if only looking at Week 9 and beyond. The following season, in 2020, the Ravens defense finished with the lowest explosive pass play rate in the league, sitting all by their lonesome in the 6% range. Martindale has mastered the art of getting pressure on the quarterback without much repercussion from offenses.
Baltimore losing cornerback Marcus Peters for the season is a huge hit, but the team has cornerback depth. They shipped off rookie Day 3 pick Shaun Wade right before the start of the season, showing off some evident faith in the rest of the guys on their depth chart. Jimmy Smith should still be able to step in with competent play, while Marlon Humphrey hunkers down on the other side. Even backup Anthony Averett has proven competent in stretches.
Ruggs’ best avenue to hitting the over is going to be snagging a downfield pass, but this is one of the toughest defenses in the league to beat that way, even with Peters out. Expect the Raiders to direct their passing game towards the underneath areas and over the middle of the field, where tight end Darren Waller may be able to have himself a day against Baltimore’s young linebackers.
Las Vegas Raiders, Race to 10 Points (+135) - DraftKings
This may feel contradictory to the Derek Carr interception prop at the top of this piece, but it’s not. Carr versus a blitz-heavy defense is still a tricky matchup that should force a blunder out of him eventually. Relentless pressure is something that should have more of a cumulative effect, though, and not necessarily something that will get Carr to mess up right away. Carr’s issues with pressure are more that he does not like when the hits start adding up, not that he can not see or understand blitz packages.
The real selling point for this side of the bet is Carr’s recent history as a fast starter in games. Carr is an awesome opening-script quarterback because he is smart, decisive, and accurate. Head coach Jon Gruden has done well to craft these opening scripts, too, and that bears itself out in the numbers.
In each of the past two seasons, the Raiders posted a significantly higher offensive DVOA in the first half of games than in the second half of games. The Raiders ranked third in first-half offensive DVOA and 22nd in second-half DVOA back in 2019, following a similar trend in 2020 as they ranked eighth in first-half offensive DVOA and 21st in second-half offensive DVOA. Seeing as the Raiders are also at home in this game, it should be even easier for them to get off to a clean start.
Whether or not Carr can keep his cool over 30-plus pass attempts against a high-pressure defense is a concern, but getting off to a smooth start at home should be attainable, if not outright expected.