The Baltimore Ravens have had it tough as of late, a row of close losses and a punishing schedule have been major factors in the worst start of their franchise history. They hit the road again tonight to face the Arizona Cardinals on Week 8’s Monday Night Football. In this short season so far, it will be the fifth time in seven games that the Ravens are playing on the road and their fourth they cross the country so early in the season.
Baltimore, had some tough games to start, opening the season on the road games at Denver and Oakland, and then headed west again after losing a close 25-20 decision in San Francisco last weekend. It’s their fifth loss by six points or fewer. Those close games could have made their season but sadly has broken it, as mathematically they are all but out of the playoffs.
“It’s disappointing to lose these close games the way we’re losing them,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “The bottom line is we’re not good enough to win them right now.”
On the other hand, the Cardinals are coming off a surprising 25-13 loss at Pittsburgh, ironically enough Pittsburg is the only team Baltimore has actually beaten. It’s only their second setback in three games following a stellar 3-0 start. Arizona is playing very well, averaging 33.8 points per game, second only to the New England Patriots.
At 1-5, Baltimore’s defense is basically being ravaged through the air. The have given up an average of 286.2 yards per game. They surrendered 340 yards to a weak 49ers team last week, who rank among the league’s worst passing attacks. Steve Smith, has been a reliable target for quarterback Joe Flacco with 36 receptions and three touchdowns but he has been the only real bright spot of the team. He was recently mentioned in possible trade talks but Harbaugh quickly shut that down denying that he would deal the veteran wideout. The Ravens need a huge effort tonight from running back Justin Forsett, who had consecutive 100-yard games before falling back to 62 yards last week. They need him to win this game.
The Cardinals are a strong 4-2, and they are moving the ball well, but its destiny relies on how well they execute in the red zone. The Cards have 16 touchdowns in 17 red-zone trips in their four wins while converting on only 2 of 9 in the two losses. So that will be the key if they want to win tonight. John Brown is coming into his own and is not just a complementary piece of the passing game. He needs to be sharp in his second season, along with veteran wideout Larry Fitzgerald, who’s reeled in 10 catches for 196 yards versus Pittsburgh. Chris Johnson needs to launch a three-pronged running attack, as last week it was limited to a season-low 55 yards.
The Cardinals Quarterback, Carson Palmer is throwing well too, averaging 289.5 yards passing with 14 TDs, but he has five interceptions so that could be an emerging weak spot. When you look at Flacco, who knows how to win, and has a 4-1 on Monday Night Football, has been throwing decently well, getting six TDs against one pick. He just needs better protection and his receivers to get in line.
Cards’ Larry Fitzgerald has caught a pass in 169 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league and only one reception seperates Raven’s Steve Smith Sr., from him. They won’t meet on the field tonight, but they’ll be competing nonetheless. Smith and Fitzgerald are having outstanding seasons. Smith, despite missing one game, leads the Ravens in receiving with 36 catches, 510 yards and three touchdowns. Fitzgerald last had 1,000 receiving yards in a season in 2011, but is well on his way this year: he’s caught 43 passes for 583 yards and six touchdowns.
We think the Ravens have to start firing and get some of those close games back to their side. That’s why we think that Baltimore can take this one on the road.