GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Ravens and Cardinals will wrap up Week 7, meeting on Monday Night Football (8:30 p.m. Eastern) at University of Phoenix Stadium. Losing on national television would be the latest downer for a Ravens (1-5) season that has gone nothing like they expected. Can the Ravens stop the bleeding by beating the talented Cardinals (4-2), who lead the NFC West?
Here are five questions to ask, and a prediction:
1) Is the Ravens’ secondary healthy enough to keep from getting burned again?
The Ravens enter the game with three defensive backs listed as questionable on the injury report – cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (thigh) and Asa Jackson (thigh), and safety Kendrick Lewis (knee), while safety Terrence Brooks (thumb) is out. Even at full strength, containing Cardinals wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown would be a handful for the Ravens defense. And they may have to depend on cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Shareece Wright for plenty of snaps if Webb can’t go. That could be a serious problem.
Another glaring weakness for the Ravens has been their inability to force turnovers. They have just three interceptions and one fumble recovery all season. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is a hot, coming off a 400-yard game in Pittsburgh. He’s going to attack the Ravens’ secondary. If the Ravens don’t force Palmer into a few miscues, it’s hard to see Baltimore winning this game.
3) Will Ravens running back Justin Forsett have success?
Forsett has rushed for at least 100 yards in two of the last three games, and the Ravens’ offensive line seems to have hit its stride. The Cardinals aren’t bad at stopping the run, ranked 12th in the NFL. But the strength of the Cardinals’ defense is their secondary. If Forsett has running room and the Ravens’ offense can control the clock, it would improve their chances of pulling off an upset.
4) Can the Ravens avoid falling behind?
They have not scored on an opening drive all season, and have spent too much time playing catchup. The Ravens have lost eight straight when quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown 40 times or more. If the Ravens get down early in this game, the Cardinals could run away with it.
5) Even if the Ravens stay in the game, can they close it out?
Close losses have been the story of the Ravens’ season – five defeats by a total of 22 points. Their defense must prove it is capable of making key stops in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: It’s going to take the Ravens’ best game of the season to win. And coming off a loss in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals should be fired up, especially on Monday. I see too much Palmer and Fitzgerald for the Ravens to handle.
Cardinals 31, Ravens 20