It is nearing the end of week seven. It was a week where some strange things happened, and the undefeated have remained undefeated. What is going to happen when the struggling Baltimore Ravens head out West to face the Arizona Cardinals, who are struggling themselves after losing two of their last three games? It is another game where the unexpected may yet happen again, but that's part of why we follow the game of football.
Joe Flacco and the Ravens are coming off of a disappointing loss in week six, when they fell to the San Francisco 49ers by a final score of 25-20. Part of the reason for the disappointment in Charm City so far this season though has been the fact that Flacco hasn't been able to do a lot at the quarterback position. Sure, he has 1,600 yards and 8 touchdowns, but through six games those numbers should be much more impressive. The biggest number though is that he has thrown seven interceptions this year, and that is a number he needs to clean up if the Ravens hope to get out of the basement of the AFC North at any point this season.
The rushing game, which has been led by Justin Forsett, simply hasn't been much better. He has 457 rushing yards on the year, which is only good for an average of 76.2 yards per game. Forsett actually only has one rushing touchdown this year, as he has been overshadowed by his quarterback in Flacco who has two rushing touchdowns.
Somehow, when it comes to the Ravens receivers, Steve Smith Sr. is still the best one that they have. 36 catches, 510 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 10 receptions of 20 yards or more. Leading the team with 206 yards after the catch and all receivers with 22 of his catches resulting in first downs.
Lawrence Guy has been leading the Ravens defense in sacks so far this year with three. That might just show you part of where the Ravens problem has truly been this year. Only four takeaways from a Ravens defense that used to rank among the best in the league only a few seasons ago. Despite the fact that two of those turnovers have led to touchdowns, the Ravens have to find a way to force some more turnovers if they are looking to escape Arizona with a road win.
Meanwhile the Arizona Cardinals have had some of their own struggles in October, losing two of their three games, against the St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers, while blowing out the Detroit Lions.
Offensively, the Cardinals are led on the field by Carson Palmer. He is doing well this year with 1,737 passing yards, but it is more impressive that he has 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions. If their record was better than 4-2, more people would be talking about Palmer being a potential MVP candidate, but everyone is currently focusing on players on the 6-0 teams, and everything can change in the NFL in just a matter of a few minutes.
Palmer has two primary targets on the field in Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. Fitzgerald has 43 catches for 583 yards and six touchdowns, while Brown has 33 catches for 497 yards and only two touchdowns. Most people would think that Brown is more of a deep threat because of his yards per catch average, but Fitzgerald actually leads him with 12 catches of 20 or more yards while Brown only has six at this point in the season.
In the running game, the Cardinals are led by the former Tennessee Titans and New York Jets running back in Chris Johnson. While he may not have the blazing speed he once had, he is hitting the hole well and has 445 yards on less than 100 attempts for a nice 4.8 yards per carry average.
Defensively, the Cardinals have many different ways to attack you. Tyrann Mathieu leads the team with seven pass breakups, but they together combine for 11 interceptions through six games. What's interesting about this is that they don't necessarily have a lot of pressure on the quarterback as they only have nine sacks this year, Alex Okafar leads the team though with two sacks and it is critical not to give Flacco too much time in the pocket with the ability that he has to throw the ball deep.
When it comes down to it, there is a reason the Ravens are struggling. They are giving the ball up too much and not getting enough of those takeaways. This writer believes that the Cardinals are going to keep their edge and find a way to win and stay ahead of the NFC West with a 5-2 record when this is said and done, while pushing the Ravens to a 1-6 record. Expect the final score to be Cardinals 38, Ravens 20.