Monday Night Football gives us two teams trending in the opposite direction. The Baltimore Ravens, just a few short years removed from a Super Bowl win are 1-5, while the Arizona Cardinals have emerged from the basement of the NFC West going 4-2 through six weeks of the regular season. The battle in the desert could be a real dagger for the Ravens, whose playoff hopes are all but improbable quite early in the running. The point spread is currently favoring the Cardinals at -9.
Monday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens vs. Arizona Cardinals
Point Spread: Cardinals -9 Over/under: 49 Date: Monday, October 26 8:30pm ET Location:University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
The Ravens troubles on offense can be spread around equally, but most notably the offensive line. Joe Flacco hasn’t seen good protection, making it hard to work the ball downfield. Against the Cardinals, they have the opportunity to gain big yardage, as Arizona’s secondary is giving up over 220 yards per game. A few big plays to Steve Smith deep could give running back Justin Forsett, who is averaging over four yards per carry, ample room to work.
Once a defensive powerhouse, the +9 underdog Baltimore team is ranked 26th in overall defense this year, allowing nearly 300 yards per game through the air and just under 100 yards rushing per game. Their strength is in stuffing the run, which will come in handy against a Cardinals team averaging 121 yards on the ground per game. Forcing Arizona to pass could also end badly for the Ravens, whose secondary is near the bottom of the league when it comes to defending the pass. They’ll face one of the best passing attacks in the league in the Cardinals.
While the -9 favorite Cardinals have regressed a bit on defense, they’re still more than capable of stopping the Ravens. With a powerful front four, they’ll want to get hits on Flacco early hoping to force him into some bad throws downfield. The secondary will need to focus their attention to Smith, who’s put up 510 yards receiving through six games. Bottling up Smith gives the front seven the ability to focus on Forsett, which could be the defense’s one liability against Baltimore.
The Cardinals offense has been humming along this season, with the health of Carson Palmer being a major factor in their success. Larry Fitzgerald has seen his productivity sky rocket with Palmer in the line up and stands to have another 100 yard game against a struggling Ravens secondary. The resurgence of running back Chris Johnson will only stand to make the Ravens defense work even harder and give Arizona the ability to really open up the playbook.
Monday Night Football Prediction
Baltimore is a shell of the team they used to be, with an aging defense and lack of depth and talent at the skill positions. Without many offensive threats and a defense that looks slow, they’ll have a tough time matching up against the Cardinals who are finally healthy and primed to take the NFC West throne from the Seahawks.