The NFL is set to kickoff tonight with the world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys. It is a fantastic feeling to get the season underway for 2021 which leads us to discussing our game of the week. Each week this season I will select one game to breakdown and give an analysis along with a prediction. As fun as it will be to watch Tom Brady dissect a pathetic Cowboys defense, our NFL game of the week is going to be the Baltimore Ravens and the Las Vegas Raiders.
The first Monday Night Football matchup of the year will showcase two of the best playmakers in the league. Lamar Jackson is easily one of the top three most entertaining players to watch at the Quarterback position. His first challenge will be against a defense that finished allowing 389 yards per game last year to opposing offenses. That statistic will rank Las Vegas 26th in the league for yards allowed in 2020. The loss of JK Dobbins will result in Lamar having to run even more than he has in previous seasons. That alone should be a treat to watch. Expect Lamar to go for 350 total yards and three total Touchdowns. Easily an NFL game of the week, if not the year.
Darren Waller is getting better every season and I do not see the Ravens having someone who can cover him. Most teams don’t have an answer for Waller. He is a matchup nightmare and over the past two seasons Waller has 197 total catches and 12 total Touchdowns. Add in over 1,100 receiving yards per season and this weapon is a lock to be in the end zone on opening night. Waller is without a doubt the most dangerous tight end in the league behind Kelce and is slowly approaching the same status. I forecast Waller hauling in nine total catches for 90 yards and a score.
This Monday night matchup should be competitive. Week one is always very difficult to predict how teams will come out and also how effective the offensive and defensive units will play together. The Ravens come into this game with a major advantage when it comes to coaching as well as the defense. In all honesty, the Raiders have the better offensive attack with Waller being a matchup nightmare and Josh Jacobs along with Kenyan Drake to make up the backfield. Derek Carr has always been a presentable Quarterback and the home crowd in Las Vegas will be rocking. This will be the first time fans are in attendance since the new opening of their Allegiant Stadium.
Both Lamar Jackson and Darren Waller’s talent will be on display Monday night. In my opinion, this will be one of the higher scoring games of the opening weekend. This game should be close well into the fourth quarter. With a win in the turnover battle for Baltimore and some key first down runs by Lamar Jackson late in the game, the Ravens should pull this one out 33-24 in the NFL game of the week.
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-Fred O’Brien (@FOBSportsNFL)