The 4-2 Arizona Cardinals welcome the 1-5 Baltimore Ravens on "Monday Night Football," the home team looking to get back on track after losing two of its last three. The Cardinals stormed out of the gate to a 3-0 record but have fallen back to earth a bit in tough losses to their divisional rival St. Louis Rams and the always-tough-at-home Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite last week's loss, the Cardinals have climbed into the top overall spot in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings and should be looking to make a bounce-back statement against the reeling Ravens.
The Ravens have been hit harder than anyone else in the NFL with injuries. Still, their five losses have come by a total of 22 points. The schedule certainly hasn't made anything easier on the Ravens, having already traveled cross-country to Denver, Oakland, San Francisco and now Arizona this season. Six of their last nine games will be at home, but they cannot afford another loss, and beating the Cardinals in Arizona might be their toughest challenge of the season.
Baltimore at Arizona
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Monday)
Line: Cardinals -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Ravens' pass defense stop Carson and his weapons?
The Ravens' pass defense ranks 28th in yards per game and 22nd in DVOA. They looked even worse than those numbers against the 49ers, allowing Colin Kaepernick to throw for 340 yards on just 16 completions. Carson Palmer has to be licking his chops watching the film with the Cardinals' offense being seventh in passing yards per game and fourth in passing DVOA. Larry Fitzgerald's resurgence has been one of the bigger surprises this season, and with all the weapons around him and Palmer, the Ravens have no easy choices.
2. Can the Cardinals make a statement?
There's a big difference between a top-five NFL team and a top-10 NFL team and we're not quite sure which trajectory the Cardinals are on. They've had their stumbles in recent weeks, but the stats all tell us they're a Super Bowl favorite. This is just the kind of game to give us a true barometer of who the Cardinals are. The Ravens are better than a 1-5 team and they will play desperate, but a true Super Bowl contender knows how to put teams like this down, especially at home. With a tough second half schedule, the Cardinals really need every win they can get at this point. This one is more vital than it might appear and will tell us a lot about how good the Cardinals really are.
3. Can Flacco find his finish?
Despite their record and injury losses, the Ravens have been in every single game they've played. Sometimes it's looked better than others, but the Ravens haven't been a consistent contender since 2009 by accident. They're still a well-coached and physical team that has talent on both sides of the ball. If this one stays close Joe Flacco must find a way to get his team over the hump no matter who he's throwing the ball or handing it off to. A big key? Not turning the ball over as the Ravens are 27th in the NFL in turnover margin at minus-five (-5). Flacco has eight touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season.
The Ravens need to come out of the gate on fire in this one because if they fall into an early hole against this offense things could get ugly. With the Cardinals looking post-bye at two games vs. the Seahawks, a visit from the Packers and a trip to Philadelphia, their place in the NFC is far from set. Holding serve against a depleted team like the Ravens is critical if they want to avoid postseason trips to unfriendly stadiums that could feature less-than-perfect weather conditions in Green Bay or Seattle. The Ravens won't go quietly, but the Cardinals simply have too much talent in all the right places to not put them down.