The Ravens played their best game of the season to rout the Detroit Lions, 38-6. The Cardinals fell to 1-6 with a 20-10 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Who will have the advantage Sunday?
Ravens passing game vs. Cardinals pass defense
Lamar Jackson played one of the best games of his career against the Lions, completing 21 of 27 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns. He made use of excellent pass protection from a healthy offensive line, patiently waiting for his receivers to pop open and finding them with pinpoint accuracy. Even when the Lions did pinch in on him, Jackson danced away from trouble and identified the right target. He used the threat of runs to draw the defense to him, then beat it with throws into abandoned spaces. Six Ravens, including fullback Patrick Ricard and running back Gus Edwards, caught passes of 20 yards or longer. For all that wondrous variety, tight end Mark Andrews (five touchdowns, 19 first downs on 28 catches) and wide receiver Zay Flowers (at least 50 receiving yards in every game) have settled in as Jackson’s most consistent targets. After a cold spell in the red zone, the Ravens scored touchdowns five of the six times they reached it. They’re also fifth in the league with a 46.3% conversion rate on third down.
The Cardinals cannot be happy to see Jackson coming to town after Seattle’s Geno Smith beat them efficiently, completing 18 of 24 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Arizona has the league’s second worst pass defense by DVOA, allowing 6.8 yards per pass attempt. The Cardinals blitz on just 20.9% of dropbacks and rank last in pressure percentage, per Pro-Football-Reference, a bad formula against Jackson. Outside linebacker Dennis Gardeck has been their most productive pass rusher with four sacks and six quarterback hits. Marco Wilson and rookie Kei’Trel Clark grade among the most vulnerable cornerbacks in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker requested a trade earlier this year but played every snap against the Seahawks after spending the previous four weeks on injured reserve.
Cardinals passing game vs. Ravens pass defense
The Cardinals have slightly exceeded expectations as they wait for franchise quarterback Kyler Murray to return from a torn ACL. They activated Murray but are expected to take their time ramping him up to start. That means the Ravens will see Joshua Dobbs, who has averaged a meager 5.9 yards per attempt with six touchdown passes and three interceptions in seven starts. The Ravens will take on a familiar face in Dobbs’ top target, Marquise Brown, who leads the Cardinals with 32 catches, 383 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie Michael Wilson has been a productive complement to Brown, averaging 16.3 yards per catch. Dobbs frequently targeted veteran tight end Zach Ertz, but he went on injured reserve this week. Arizona’s offensive linemen don’t grade well as pass blockers, according to Pro Football Focus, but Dobbs has taken a modest 15 sacks.
He’ll take on a Ravens defense that leads the league with 29 sacks after piling up five more against Detroit. They succeeded in disrupting quarterback Jared Goff’s rhythm early, using the stunts and simulated pressures that have worked so well for them all season. Those 29 sacks have come from 12 players, so opponents don’t know where to look for the next rush. Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike has led the parade with 5 1/2 sacks. The Ravens were thrilled to see outside linebacker Odafe Oweh return with a sack and a forced fumble after he missed the previous four games because of an ankle sprain. Safety Geno Stone, filling in for the injured Marcus Williams, leads the league with four interceptions. The secondary has exceeded expectations, with cornerbacks Brandon Stephens, Ronald Darby and Rock Ya-Sin covering well as Marlon Humphrey works back to peak form. After their dominant performance against the Lions, the Ravens rank first in pass defense DVOA.
Ravens running game vs. Cardinals run defense
The Ravens also ran more efficiently against Detroit with 146 yards on 27 attempts and touchdowns from Jackson and Edwards. They rank third in the league in rushing and eighth in yards per attempt and hope those numbers will continue to point up with all five starting offensive linemen playing together. Jackson is running slightly more often than he did last season but averaging a career-low 5.3 yards per attempt. He’s as likely to use his legs to extend passing plays as he is to take off. Jackson slammed his helmet on the sideline after a botched exchange with running back Justice Hill, their third of the season, deprived the Ravens of another chance to score on the Lions.
The Cardinals don’t defend the run well either, allowing 4.4 yards per carry and ranking 29th in rush defense DVOA. Linebacker Kyzir White is their top tackler, but defensive tackles Jonathan Ledbetter and Leki Fotu have played poorly. The Cardinals gave up 179 rushing yards to the Los Angeles Rams and 185 to the Dallas Cowboys.
Cardinals running game vs. Ravens run defense
This was the Cardinals’ strength until running back James Conner went on injured reserve. Their new No. 1, rookie Emari Demercado, rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries against Seattle. Dobbs has averaged 5.7 yards on six attempts per game. They also use wide receiver Rondale Moore as a change of pace, and he has averaged 9.1 yards on 15 carries. The Cardinals have rushed for at least 100 yards six games in a row, peaking at 222 in their upset win over Dallas.
The Ravens have been more vulnerable against the run than the pass, a surprise given the excellence of linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen and the interior power provided by Michael Pierce and Travis Jones. It’s not as if they’ve been bad, allowing 4.2 yards per carry. Opponents have played from behind for most of the season, so the Ravens have not been tested by many committed ground attacks. That could change in Arizona. Smith missed practice Wednesday because of a shoulder injury.
Ravens special teams vs. Cardinals special teams
Aside from a short kickoff that did not work, the Ravens avoided special teams mishaps against the Lions. With their offense moving so efficiently, they did not have a lot of work to do on this front. Justin Tucker has made 12 of 14 field goal attempts, with his misses coming from 59 and 61 yards. They rank 18th in special teams DVOA, thanks mostly to their early-season struggles in punt coverage.
The Cardinals, also held down by inconsistent coverage, rank one spot below the Ravens. They gave up a 32-yard punt return in their loss to Seattle. Kicker Matt Prater has made 13 of 15 field goal attempts. Greg Dortch hasn’t made much impact as a returner, averaging 7.4 yards on punts and 17.6 on kickoffs.
Ravens intangibles vs. Cardinals intangibles
As soon as the Ravens finished off the Lions, they started with their refrain of “on to Arizona.” They know this could be a classic letdown game after their dominant win over Detroit invited a deluge of praise. Jackson, who seemed less than blown away by their performance, has rarely lost to significant underdogs. The Ravens will have to deal with another long trip two weeks after they played in London, but coach John Harbaugh joked that travel fatigue is just a state of mind.
The Cardinals have lost four in a row, all by at least 10 points, for first-year coach Jonathan Gannon, who was the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator last season. They’re waiting for Murray’s return as speculation builds that they might draft a quarterback with the high pick they’re certain to earn. They did upset the Cowboys at home, so there’s some life in them.
Letdown or no letdown, the Ravens will go into Arizona with a significant talent advantage. Jackson will have plenty of time to find open targets against a defense that struggles to create pressure. The Cardinals, with just 55 points in their past four games, won’t have the firepower to keep up. Ravens 31, Cardinals 16