Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cardinals @ Ravens

In a match-up of 1-1 teams, the Arizona Cardinals visit B-More this week to take on the Ravens. Much like the Ravens last week, the Cards relinquished a big lead but still came out on top, defeating Seattle 23-20 at home on a last second Neil Rackers field goal. Also like the Ravens, it was their second straight tight game of the season, as Week 1 saw them lose 20-17 on a San Francisco TD scored with only 22 seconds remaining.

The injury bug continues to plague the Ravens. While quarterback Steve McNair has said that he plans to start this week, the Ravens will be without defensive end Trevor Pryce, who had surgery to repair a broken wrist suffered in the Jets game and will be out for 3-5 weeks. The loss of Pryce could be a big factor in this one. The key to the game on defense for the Ravens will be getting pressure on 2nd year starter Matt Leinart, who threw for 299 yards and a score last week. The ability of the Ravens front four to create pressure is diminished without Pryce coming off the end. While the B-More coaches have nothing but good things to say about the players filling in for Pryce, Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards, until they show otherwise, neither is a fully capable replacement for Pryce. If Suggs, Gregg, Ngata, and the Bannan/Edwards combo is unable to get sufficient pressure on Leinart, the Ravens will be forced to blitz more than even they are accustomed to. This won’t make life any easier for the secondary, who will be charged with the task of covering two of the NFL’s premiere wideouts this week in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. We saw last week in the 4th quarter what can happen when this unit starts to have issues. The Jets receivers were running roughshod over the Ravens in the final 15 minutes, and the Cardinals will likely be looking at the film from that 4th quarter for ways to do the same.

The other offensive weapon the Cards feature is running back Edgerrin James, who is 5th in the NFL in rushing through 2 weeks, having racked up 220 yards. The Ravens counter with a defense that is currently 2nd in the league in rushing, having allowed 56 ypg to date. The Nest gives the nod to the purple and black in this department though, so look for the Ravens to try to get the Cards in obvious passing situations by holding James in check. Again, the pressure will be on the secondary to come through.

On the other side of the ball, the Cards are ranked 8th in total defense this year. The Nest sees this as a bit misleading though, as anyone who watched the SF-ARZ game on opening Monday can attest that the 49ers offense couldn’t get out of its own way that night. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 281 yards and the Seahawks averaged 3.9 yards per carry last week in the desert. The resurgence of Derrick Mason so far this season in the Ravens offense, along with the return of a healthy Mark Clayton, bodes well for Steve McNair, who, if he is indeed healthy, should have no problems finding holes in the Cardinal defense. Willis Mcgahee should continue to improve on his first two efforts as a Raven as he becomes more familiar with his offensive line, and will likely find the end zone again this week.

In the end, keep in mind that “these ain’t your father’s (or older brother’s) Cardinals,” and don’t expect the Ravens to blow anyone’s doors off this week. The Ravens are the better team, however, and will come out on top in another B-More nail biter.

Ravens 19 Cardinals 13

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