The Ravens head west battered by injuries, with three running backs already on season-ending IR in addition to starting cornerback Marcus Peters. That's not even to mention the short-term absence of rookie first-round pick wide receiver Rashod Bateman. Baltimore remains favored by four points (50.5 O/U) all the same.
The Raiders might be shorthanded themselves, with starting guard Richie Incognito out and starting running back Josh Jacobs questionable due to illness. Even at home and against a wounded Ravens team, Las Vegas appears less than intimidating.
The star of the game is of course Lamar Jackson ($12400 DK, $17000 FD), and even at a high price he might be the most popular pick on the slate. There's always thought to be given to differentiating our lineups from the field, but it's possible that Jackson is the category of player who's a borderline mandatory pick to be competitive in a game like this. That's particularly the case with the Ravens backfield in disarray – it's possible that the Ravens backup runners prove capable of doing the same level of lifting as J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards would have, but if they don't then Jackson is a fine candidate to pick up the slack. There's nothing concerning in the Las Vegas defense in terms of personnel – if the Raiders manage to stifle Jackson it would take at least one of a failure on Jackson's part or a heroic effort by the Raiders defense. Those scenarios are possible but still unlikely.
Derek Carr ($9800 DK, $14000 FD) would normally project poorly in a matchup with the Ravens, especially now that the Raiders have neither top 2020 receiver Nelson Agholor nor previously assumed 2021 replacement John Brown, who the Raiders cut shortly before the season. The loss of those two doesn't amount to as much as the Ravens' loss of standout corner Marcus Peters, however, and even depth corner Jimmy Smith is dealing with an ankle injury as of Thursday. Carr isn't a bad quarterback, and this might be the most vulnerable the Ravens defense has been in a while. Catching them on the road should also help.
Josh Jacobs ($8400 DK, $12500 FD) is questionable with an illness, and his status will hold a lot of sway over the course of the game. Jacobs draws high per-snap usage as a runner and any absence on his part would open a major void of usage for the Raiders to account for. Kenyan Drake ($7200 DK, $8500 FD) was paid in free agency to step up in such scenarios, and if Jacobs can't go or plays on a limited snap count then Drake would be the heavy favorite to pick it up. Peyton Barber ($2000 DK, $5500 FD) is hanging around too, but he's not a candidate for targets and might not earn more than a few short-yardage carries even if Jacobs is out. If Jacobs is in then Barber might not play a snap on offense.
The matchup isn't great for the Raiders ground game, but big volume can help mitigate a matchup concern and Jacobs can draw big usage when healthy. If not available in this case, then Drake should get a lot of usage, even if it doesn't really go anywhere. There's a chance that either player could turn that usage into useful production, however. Jon Gruden is a generally a good play caller and usually puts his offensive players in good spots. He might have some good ideas about how to approach a Ravens defense breaking in a fair amount of new personnel – while the second-year linebacker duo of Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison figures to be much improved after they were thrown into the fire as rookies last year, they might have a lot on their plate with starting interior lineman Derek Wolfe out and the Ravens breaking in new outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston. That, and the Ravens might need to take some resources away from the run defense to allocate toward its suddenly-thinned secondary.
The Ravens backfield sets up favorably. Ty'Son Williams ($6800 DK, $12000 FD) is expected to lead the way, at least while Latavius Murray ($6200 DK, $8000 FD) gets acclimated to the team and scheme. Williams is unproven but he might be a decent player. He was productive college and tested reasonably well as an athlete (~4.50 40 at 220 pounds), but he dealt with injuries and two transfers, leaving him to wallow in obscurity as a result. He was on the Ravens practice squad last year and consistently earned credibility with the team over that span, so he might be ready to rock with a surprisingly big volume in this contest. If not, Murray is a proven NFL commodity who should be able to contribute on some of the more basic run concepts the Ravens might use. Le'Veon Bell ($4200 DK, $9000 FD) and Devonta Freeman ($2200 DK) were recently added to the Ravens practice squad, but it's not clear whether either will be called up here.
Alec Ingold ($200 DK, $5000 FD) and Patrick Ricard ($5000 FD) are fullbacks for the Raiders and Ravens, respectively, and sometimes they even catch a pass or two. They're highly unlikely to surpass double-digit fantasy points in a game, however.
WIDE RECEIVERS + TIGHT ENDS
Darren Waller ($10800 DK, $13000 FD) is a monster whose rare combination of size, athleticism and skill makes him borderline unstoppable against most defenses. It makes sense for a defense to take a containment approach rather than try to truly stop Waller, because attempts at the latter usually fail anyway, and at the expense of leaving the rest of the defense overexposed for lack of remaining coverage resources. Either defensive approach still usually results in Waller checking the box for his fantasy investors. Baltimore linebacker Patrick Queen might one day prove a special coverage linebacker, perhaps even as soon as this year, but he and his teammates will have to put forth one of their best efforts of the season to get in Waller's way, especially if Jacobs is out and the Raiders can't run as much as usual.
If the Ravens do manage to stifle Waller then they might leave themselves open to the big play from Henry Ruggs ($5000 DK, $9500 FD) downfield, or they might have to watch Hunter Renfrow($2800 DK, $7500 FD) move the chains on them repeatedly. The new variable in the Raiders passing game is the much-anticipated second-year prospect Bryan Edwards ($5600 DK, $7000 FD), and he could turn into an impressive player in a hurry. Whether he does in this setting might depend on how much he sees of shutdown Baltimore corner Marlon Humphrey. It's not clear how Humphrey will line up in light of the Marcus Peters injury, however. Zay Jones ($1800 DK, $6000 FD), Willie Snead ($1200 DK, $6500 FD) and Foster Moreau ($1000 DK, $5500 FD) are hanging around the periphery of the Raiders passing game, if you feel so inclined to explore that region.
Although he can't match the volume capacity of Waller on the other side, Mark Andrews ($9000 DK, $11000 FD) has per-snap explosiveness to rival any tight end in the league, and in this game the Ravens might need him to do more lifting than usual as they play without not just Bateman at receiver, but also tight end Nick Boyle. There's nothing concerning about the matchup for Andrews – the Raiders defense should be closer to bad than average this year, and if they slow him it will probably be because they sold out to do so, in the process leaving themselves vulnerable to immense big-play ability of Marquise Brown ($7600 DK, $10000 FD). It's not just Brown, though – Sammy Watkins ($5200 DK, $8000 FD) and Devin Duvernay ($2600 DK, $7000 FD) are both threats to hang six on the Raiders in the blink of an eye. Watkins is the definite starter opposite Brown, but it's not clear how the Ravens plan to use the speedy Duvernay, nor the less speedy but still credible underneath targets James Proche ($200 DK, $5500 FD) and Tylan Wallace ($200 DK, $5000 FD). While Proche and Wallace can't offer much in the way of speed, they were both great college receivers and are capable of hurting these mediocre Raiders cornerbacks if the reps are there. For now, though, there's no guarantee they play much or at all.
Eric Tomlinson ($800 DK, $5000 FD) might need to play 30 or more tight end snaps for the Ravens with Boyle out, but he's a sluggish athlete who mostly functions as a blocker. If you're diving deep for a wildcard in the Ravens offense then third tight end Josh Oliver ($200 DK, $5000 FD) might be a candidate if he's active. Unlike Tomlinson, Oliver is an athletic tight end who should be used less as a blocker than a threat in space.
Justin Tucker ($4000 DK, $9000 FD) is of course one of the top kickers in the NFL, and in a game where the Ravens project to have the advantage on both offense and defense it also projects well for general field positioning. Daniel Carlson ($3600 DK, $8500 FD) was exceptional in his own right in 2020, knocking down 33 of 35 field goal attempts as he produced eight or more points in 13 games last year, and double-digit points seven times.
It's difficult to see any upside in picking the Raiders ($3000 DK), even with the Baltimore offense beat up as it is. The Ravens ($4600 DK) are expected to establish a lead and in the process the opportunity to produce sacks and turnovers if Las Vegas throws to catch back up. The Marcus Peters injury is a huge loss on this front, though, and CB Jimmy Smith might be out too. Whether the Ravens can get to Derek Carr depends on the question of Odafe Oweh's development and whether Justin Houston has anything left as an edge rusher.