Romilly Evans previews the MNF double-header, where he expects Carson Palmer to come out on top in a battle of the canon-arms
"Palmer seems more happily housed in Oakland where enjoys some talented options at receiver"
It's going to be an evening of sadness and fond reflection in Baltimore, four days after the death of their majority owner, Art Modell. Modell had his critics in a career which polarized opinion both on and off the football field, but he will always be remembered fondly in these parts for producing a Super Bowl-winning franchise.
Not that the Ravens will need any added motivation against their bitter AFC North rivals in the first game of the new season. The Ravens had the Bengals' number last season (2-from-2) claiming a pivotal 24-16 win in January, having lost three of their previous four games. The Vegas line makes this a one-touchdown game and the tide seems to be running with Baltimore (Cincinnati are a miserable 9-19 under the national spotlight of Monday Night Football).
But a closer look at these two teams makes the 2.0521/20 to back, available with the Bengals receiving a 6.5-point start, very attractive, to my mind. Especially if they tighten up on turnovers - they coughed up the ball five times in their last match against the Ravens and still only lost by eight points.
Admittedly, that's easier said than done against the storied Baltimore D, but Cincinnati will also benefit from the return of key wide receiver, A.J. Green, who was either absent or short on fitness when these sides met last term. Expect them to stay close.
It's a re-run of last season's divisional decider in Oakland and an evenly balanced game seems in store on paper. Last year, the Chargers ran out 38-26 winners to gift the AFC West title to the Denver Broncos. So the Raiders will be out for retribution, as befits their franchise tagline.
Recent results attest to the open nature of this "pick-'em" game, whose spoils have been squarely split at 3-3 for their last six games. However, the Chargers did dominate previously and have a fantastic record in Oakland, taking seven of the previous eight fixtures.
Those victories were for the most part secured by the long arm of Bolts quarter-back Philip Rivers, but the fiery talisman cooled off substantially last season and is entering what many see as his do-or-die campaign in San Diego.
On Monday night, Rivers lines up against another underachieving QB in Carson Palmer, a former Heisman Trophy winner who, for all his showreel highlights, could never seem to get it done when it mattered most for the Bengals.
After that acrimonious departure from Cincinnati, Palmer seems more happily housed in Oakland where enjoys some talented options at receiver, which should give the Raiders another solid shot at the play-offs. Couple that to Palmer's motivation to leave some sort of stamp on the NFL, and I can see him having the edge of Rivers and his depleted receiving corps.
Palmer also possesses a solid record against previously superior San Diego sides - in five games he's completed 69.9% of passes for 347.8 yards per game, with 13 TDs and only three interceptions. So expect the Raiders to come out from their corner swinging.