Cincinnati Bengals -3.5 +106
I’ve seen many respected cappers on the Raiders, but I can’t find out how they will be able to match up with one of the best-built teams in week one. The Raiders made the right moves in the off-season and will be a better team than in 2014, but a cover against the Bengals so early in the season is too much to ask for. There are mismatches all over the field and I will start with the one in the trenches: Justin Tuck turned 32 and wasn’t the explosive DE last season. DT Justin Ellis is poor and the loss of DT Antonio Smith hurts the Raiders’ pass-rush from the interior even though Dan Williams is a solid DT and was stout against the run last season. On the right side the Raiders send a young face in DE Mario Edwards who looked like a stud in the pre-season. Khalil Mack said they will have parties in the backfield. This might be true, but not in week one. The Bengals have the 2nd best offensive line in the league and Mario Edwards will line up against the best LT in the game – Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth didn’t allow any sacks in 2014 and there have been 10 games in which he allowed ZERO pressures. He is not going to get beaten by a rookie in his first start. Justin Tuck will struggle to get past Andre Smith and there isn’t anything to be afraid of from the interior. So I expect Andy Dalton to have a clean pocket. And that’s where the Bengals will torch the Raiders early and often. The Raiders have neither the secondary to cover Marvin Jones, A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, nor do they have a strong weakside on the LB corps to not let Tyler Eifert create mismatches. Their three CBs don’t have much of an experience and are learning a new system this year. SS Charles Woodson is 36 and FS Nate Allen can’t be seen as the playmaker IMO. Dalton will have time, Jones and Green will have space. Their favorable running game should be enough to convert short downs. Hue Jackson will call play to expose this secondary. The Bengals should be able to score at will and I expect a booming first half.
What do the Raiders bring to the table offensively? A very solid offensive line that took a little blow in Watson getting hurt and a young explosive WR in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. But the QB is still Derek Carr. Here is a quote of the site Football Perspective: “Take away the 102 worst pass plays of Derek Carr’s 2014 season and he’s nearly average”. The Bengals will have an improved pass rush with DE Michael Johnson back and Derek Carr will be throwing into a good coverage. This defense is a top-10 unit with a lot of depth. I give Leon Hall and Dre Kirkpatrick the edge over 60 minutes and see Derek Carr struggling to move the ball effectively. Will LB rookie Paul Dawson has shown flashes of being one of the most instinctive LBs in the league that’s why I don’t see the Raiders moving the ball on the ground. The Bengals have enough skill on their secondary to play man coverage to send an extra defender into the box. Bottom line this is a very favorable matchup for the Bengals whom I expect to have such a significant lead by the beginning of the fourth quarter to give AJ McCarron some playing time.