The Baltimore Ravens head to Las Vegas for their season-opening tilt against the Silver and Black.
The early NFL betting odds on this AFC matchup show the Black Birds of Russell Street as 4 point favorites on the road. But are the Las Vegas Raiders getting too much love at home? Only four points against one of the most explosive offenses in the league?
Let’s dig a little deeper and see if there is any value in this early betting line.
This early on, it’s challenging to assess betting value on any given team accurately. We haven’t seen camps, and we are still a ways off from preseason matchups. This means we have to go on last season’s performance and FPI as well as historical data.
With that said, it’s disclaimer time. Today we will break down the game and get a pick for the Ravens-Raiders in Baltimore’s season opener. However, it’s just going to be a lean because we still have a lot of gaps in the info. So, don’t go running to your favorite sportsbook to throw money on the pick just yet.
You will be able to use what you learn here today and assimilate information that comes down the pipe over the next couple of months to make an educated play on this game well ahead of game day.
One thing to keep in mind when you are trying to make money from football betting is you are not betting on a team or against a team. Therefore, your loyalty is not in question. The only thing you are betting against is the lines provided by the bookies. This is what separates the average Joes who lose in the long run versus the sports betting pros who beat the books each season.
If the line has clear value, bet it. If it doesn’t, do not bet on it. It’s that simple.
Ravens vs. Raiders the Stats and FPI
Last year, and the previous for that matter, the Ravens had one of the highest NFL power index ratings in the league. They finished the 2020-2021 season with a rating of 7.1 points. This number means that they should beat an ‘average’ NFL team on a neutral field by said amount. An average team from last season would have been the Minnesota Vikings or the Cleveland Browns.
On the other hand, the Raiders finished their season with an FPI of -1.3, meaning they should lose to a team like the Vikings by around a point during a matchup in a neutral setting. So, if we go by these numbers alone, the current average betting line for this matchup of four points is fairly accurate.
The Ravens last clocked in at roughly +7.1 and the Raiders-1.3; this leaves us with a difference of 5.8 points. But this game is not in a neutral setting; it’s in Las Vegas. So, we have to adjust. But by how much?
Well, it used to be that three points were given to the home team by better—some, like the Ravens and Packers, a little more. However, we are living in a brave new world where people don’t go outside as much and are afraid to gather in groups. So, home-field advantage has had its legs cut out from under it. Last year we saw road teams cover spreads and win games in record numbers, so the most I would give teams with home-field advantage at the moment is about 1.5 points … and that is pushing it. In most cases, I’d say just a point and sometimes just a half of a point.
So, let’s give the Raiders a point. Now we are down to a -4.8 advantage for the Ravens, and if we gave the Raiders the full 1.5, it would be -4.3. Round that number down, and we have the opening point spread.
However, I think the -4 spread has less to do with giving the Raiders an extra half point for playing at home than it does with Jon Gruden historically starting strong and winning his first couple of games of the season—which is something we should keep in mind.
Although the Ravens are the far-superior team on the field and on paper, Jon Gruden always seems to pull out his magic wand and get a win or two against tough teams right at the beginning of the football season.
Last year is a good example. The Raiders went on the road and beat the Panthers. In 2019, Denver with Flacco and the new Fangio defense were hyped up, but Gruden took them down in Week 1. In 2018, they failed to take down a tough LA Rams team in Week 1 but did beat Denver on the road in Week 2, then took out a much tougher Cleveland Browns team in Week 4 before finally submitting to the inevitable … which for the Raiders, tends to be a losing season … Well to be fair they did finish strong due to the Packers and Seahawks calling it in early to rest for the playoffs, and the Raiders finished 8-8.
My final thoughts are that I do believe the Ravens will win. But Gruden always plays tough in Week 1, if his team is at home. These two teams both have offenses that put up 27 points per game last year. The big differentiator being the defenses: Baltimore having one of the best in the league and the Raiders one of the worst.
So, before I drop my money on Purple Reign to cover this number, I want to watch how camps go and how preseason plays out. The Raiders might surprise us with stellar defense—which won’t last throughout the season— and keep it to a field goal.