Game Preview: ‘Edgy’ Ravens Face Familiar Test

The Ravens will go against another team on a five-game skid, but now they’re angry.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Saturday, October 29th, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink, Week 8 vs Cardinals

This Sunday, the Ravens will enter a familiar game to the one they have tried to forget in Jacksonville.

Like the Jaguars, the Arizona Cardinals are also on a five-game losing streak. They’re also probably better than their record shows, as three of their defeats have been by a collective eight points.

But there are two key differences.

First, the Ravens are at home, where they have long been one of the NFL’s most dominant teams.

Second, they have a different attitude. They went to Jacksonville with chatter about them being the AFC’s strongest team. Now, after an embarrassing 12-7 loss to the Jaguars, the Ravens are agitated.

“We’ve been feeling it all week,” fullback Vonta Leach said. “We’ve got a chip on our shoulders and everybody is a little edgy this week.”

The Ravens’ loss to the Jaguars, who entered with a 1-5 record, was a strange occurrence during Head Coach John Harbaugh’s tenure.

Baltimore entered that game having lost just twice to teams with a losing record, both times coming in Week 2 of the 2010 and 2011 seasons to Cincinnati and Tennessee, respectively. The Ravens had never fallen to a team on a skid like Jacksonville.

Asked how you beat a team on the ropes like Arizona, linebacker Ray Lewis said it’s about playing mistake-free football and getting off to a good start.

“You got to go in, punch them in the mouth and take care of business,” Lewis said.

The Ravens will have the M&T Bank Stadium advantage behind them. They’ve scored victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets and Houston Texans at home this year.

They run the ball better at home (143.3 yards per game since 2008, the third most in the NFL). Quarterback Joe Flacco’s career quarterback rating is eight points higher at home than on the road.

The Ravens have a 22-5 record at home under Harbaugh. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have lost 10 straight on the road. The last time they won in opponent territory was against St. Louis in Week 1 last year.

“The thing about this league, and especially the top places to play – which our place is one of them – it makes a difference,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, that’s going to be big for us.”

3 Matchups To Watch

WR Anquan Boldin vs. CB Patrick Peterson
Boldin is no doubt looking to have a big day against his former employer. Peterson was the fifth-overall pick this past year and, according to reports, one of the best cornerbacks in the draft in quite some time. The 6-foot-1 Peterson can get physical with receivers and it will be interesting to see if Baltimore does a better job getting off press coverage.

CB Cary Williams vs. WR Larry Fitzgerald
The last time the Ravens faced a big-bodied receiver at the top of his game like Fitzgerald, Tennessee’s Kenny Britt had nine catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. Williams will look to keep Fitzgerald from having a similar day. Fitzgerald can go up high to make a play, which is where Williams’ length will help.

G Andre Gurode vs. DE Darnell Dockett
Dockett’s a local boy, hailing from Burtonsville, Md. He’s also a three-time Pro Bowler with 12 sacks over the past two seasons. He’ll be facing a converted center in Gurode, who has had some expected road bumps in his transition to the new position. The Ravens are looking to better protect Flacco.

3 Questions To Answer

Will the offense get back on track?
Seven points and no first-half first downs are far below Baltimore’s offensive potential. The Cardinals defense, which is taken from Pittsburgh’s system by Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton, isn’t on par with Jacksonville’s. Arizona’s defense is ranked No. 26 in the NFL.

How many carries will Ray Rice get?
Rice had just eight carries against the Jaguars, tying a career-low since he’s been the starter. It’s not a winning formula, Harbaugh said. Arizona’s run defense is fairly strong (14th in the league), but look for Baltimore to get the ball in Rice’s hands a good bit, whether on the ground or in the air.

How does the secondary shake out?
The Ravens are finally healthy in the secondary. Now where does everybody play? Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb have been outstanding as the starters, but veteran Chris Carr and rookie first-round pick Jimmy Smith are also talented corners looking for action. Where does Tom Zbikowski fit in?

Team Rankings

RAVENS
Total Offense – 330.3 (20)
Rush Offense – 107.0 (19)
Pass Offense – 223.3 (17)
Points Per Game – 25.8 (8)
Total Defense – 272.7 (1)
Rush Defense – 85.8 (3)
Pass Defense – 186.8 (4)
Points Per Game – 13.8 (1)

CARDINALS
Total Offense – 338.5 (16)
Rush Offense – 98.0 (24)
Pass Offense – 240.5 (13)
Points Per Game – 19.3 (22t)
Total Defense – 388.3 (26)
Rush Defense – 114.2 (14)
Pass Defense – 274.2 (28)
Points Per Game – 25.5 (28)

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