The Baltimore Ravens open up their season at home this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. against the Arizona Cardinals. The reason for the “pick your poison” headline is simple – defensively the Cardinals can’t stop the run nor the pass. They are equally bad in both areas. Most NFL teams can do one or the either, but this team can’t do either one, which sets up a long day for the Arizona defense. They are bad at all 3 levels. Lots of holes in their cheese.
Cards defensive coordinator Van Joseph has his hands full, and he knows it. That’s without knowing what the Ravens have on offense, as the Dolphins’ matador defense last Sunday didn’t even pose anything resembling a speed bump in their embarrassing loss to said Ravens. The Ravens scored at will, and didn’t put anything earth shattering on tape that the Cards can plan for and attempt to take away.
The Dolphins made a decision to play their safeties close to the line of scrimmage, and QB Lamar Jackson and company made them pay dearly for it but going over the top time and time again. And that’s the dilemma that Joseph is facing. Put a safety in the box, play cover 1 or cover zero, and he risks long chunk plays by Ravens receivers and tight ends. The Ravens now have playmakers that can take the top off of any defense.
Push the safeties towards the back end and play Cover 2 or 3, risk the Ravens bleeding you with paper cuts. I believe that Joseph will do just that. He’ll watch the Ravens backs and QB Jackson gash the Dolphins for 5, 3, 12 and 18 yard run plays, hoping for a turnover. That’s the only way the Cardinals will be able to keep pace with the Ravens.
I should also point out that the Cardinals are missing their best defensive player Patrick Peterson. He is serving a 6 game suspension due to a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. His replacement is Tramaine Brock, and you might want to remember that he will be wearing #20. The reason is that he is a well traveled journeyman who’s not very good, and the receiver lined up against him should have a field day. The Cards’ right cornerback is rookie second round draft pick Byron Murphy and although he has all the tools to develop into solid NFL corner, he will be prone to make rookie mistakes. Huge match up advantage for the Ravens here.
If the Cardinals attempt to take away the deep pass, then Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will all have a big day. It doesn’t matter what the Cards’ offense does against the Ravens’ defense, which I don’t think will be much. Kyler Murray struggled against a weak Lions’ defense last week. He threw for an NFL rookie record 25 incomplete passes. He absolutely stunk it up in the first three quarters and finally put together some nice drives in the fourth.
At 5’9″ my feeling is that he is going to struggle against the Ravens’ defense and the raucous home crowd. He does have some nice weapons on offense, particularly dual-threat running back in David Johnson and of course the ageless and future first ballot sure fire Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald.
I see the Cardinals falling into a deep hole early, and as long as the Ravens take care of the ball, I think they will beat the Cardinals 45 – 17.