The Las Vegas Raiders will host the first Monday Night Football game of the 2021 NFL season when they welcome the Baltimore Ravens to Allegiant Stadium on Sept. 13.
ESPN's Adam Schefter confirmed the matchup ahead of the league's full schedule release Wednesday night:
The Raiders looked like a budding contender during the first half of the 2020 campaign. They started 6-3, a stretch that was highlighted by wins over the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns, all of whom went on to win at least one playoff game.
Las Vegas faltered after the promising start, however, losing five of its final seven contests to miss the postseason.
Now the question is whether the team's modest offseason additions, led by defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and wide receiver John Brown, will be enough to push the Raiders into the playoffs.
They'll face an immediate Week 1 test from Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, who've reached the playoffs three straight years but have just one postseason win during that stretch.
Baltimore faced questions late in the 2020 campaign about whether there was enough variety within its run-centric offense, but head coach John Harbaugh gave credit to the unit before saying there's always room to improve.
"Our offense has won us a lot of football games here, and we're not apologizing for that for one second," Harbaugh said. "We are going to improve it, no question about it. We're going to go to work to be more precise, more efficient, better at what we do. That's what we have to do—be better at it. We'll leave the criticism to the critics."
All told, it's quite possible both the Ravens and Raiders end up as close competitors in the race for wild-card spots if they don't capture their respective division titles. So even though it's a Week 1 matchup, it could have a lasting impact in the AFC.
Playing on Monday Night Football also gives both teams the chance to make an immediate statement about their ability to contend amid no shortage of title hopefuls in the conference.