Baltimore Ravens at Arizona Cardinals (-8, 48.5 o/u)
Perhaps this year’s NFL MVP should go to the injured Terrell Suggs; no one has proved more important to or deeply rooted in his team’s success. Since the leader of their defense went down, the Baltimore Ravens (1-5, 1-3 Away) have been a mess. Now their charitable D could potentially get torched in front of a national audience when they visit the high-octane Arizona Cardinals (4-2, 2-1 Home) on Monday Night Football (8:30 PM Eastern) in Week 7.
Without “T-Sizzle,” the Ravens D is playing its worst football in the John Harbaugh era. Surrendering 380 yards and 27 points per game, Baltimore has made the like of Derek Carr, Josh McCown, and Colin Kaepernick look like Ken Stabler, Bernie Kosar, and Steve Young. The secondary has been largely at fault, as established corners Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb have struggled mightily this season.
But just because they rank tenth against the run and boast a few Pro Bowlers, you can’t let this linebacking core off the hook. (Especially if you saw how they got lit up by fullback Bruce Miller last week.) Elvis Dumervil has tailed off without Suggs on the opposite side, and C.J. Mosley just can’t command the defense in the same way.
The Ravens offense has tried its best to pick up the defense, scoring 23.8 points a game despite working with a no-name receiving corps outside of Steve Smith Sr. And even though the season looks lost, Baltimore has denied the possibility of trading the aging receiver to a contender, which is good news, because this offense would be dreadful without him. (Case in point: they only managed 20 points against the god-awful 49ers last weekend with Smith on the bench thanks to a back injury.)
Of course, against the Cardinals, Smith figures to be under tight lock-down by Patrick Patterson. That means Kamar Aiken, Crockett Gillmore, and/or Justin Forsett will have to step up to help this team keep moving the chains against a top-ten defense.
I haven’t talked a ton about the Cardinals offense yet because I’m not certain how good this unit really is. They are second in the NFL in points per game, but against hard-nosed defenses like the Rams and Steelers, they were mistake-prone and horribly inefficient. However, Carson Palmer and company shouldn’t have to worry too much about being harassed by this Ravens unit, thanks to the nice offensive balance they’ve found with Chris Johnson and the run game.
The Cardinals haven’t lost back-to-back home games under Bruce Arians and have compiled a 15-4 record at University of Phoenix Stadium. While Baltimore is a threat to cover, given their penchant for playing close games, it doesn’t look like they have the weapons to keep it close. They’re notoriously slow-starters (zero points on opening drives this season) and this game could be a blowout at half-time.
Pick: Cardinals (-8).
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Orignally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].)