The Arizona Cardinals seem to be just what the doctor ordered to cure the Baltimore Ravens of the terrible stomach ache they have had since Monday night's embarrassing 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags were 1-5 heading into that game and the Ravens were predicted to win and win convincingly, neither of which happened. The Cards come into Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium 1-5 and the same thing is predicted, but these are two very different scenarios.
First of all, the Ravens were perhaps a bit overconfident prior to the Jacksonville game and while they are confident about today's game, they are angry and ready to take their frustrations out on Arizona. The game is in Baltimore, where the Ravens fans will not let them relax or help out the visitors with their cheering, as happened on the road in Florida last week. A solid showing is paramount for the team and its fans, knowing that a return to dominance will go a long way towards the confidence needed as a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers looms on the horizon next Sunday night on national television.
However, despite that huge game next weekend, it is this game that will command the full focus and attention of the Ravens. The team's defense has played lights out and even continued that performance in Jacksonville, even lowering their league-best points allowed per game average down to just under 14 points per game. It's the offense that will need to not only put points on the board, but move the ball with consistency both on the ground but especially through the air.
That has been the problem all season long. Even though the Ravens have one of the higher scoring teams in the league, that ranking is skewed by the number of points either scored by the defense or put into scoring position by a defensive turnover. With poor offensive showings in t least three of the team's six games, the need to prove this team can win games on the arm of QB Joe Flacco and the offense is what everyone is waiting to see.
While the Ravens offensive performance last week was unacceptable, give the Jaguars credit for playing solid defense virtually the entire game, as they are perhaps one of the better defenses in the league and proved it by shutting out Baltimore for almost 58 minutes. The Cardinals defense will never be mistaken for Jacksonville's as they are among the weaker ones in the NFL, which should be why Baltimore could make this game ugly, and beautiful at the same time.
A steady mixture of runs and passes is what the team needs to do to get into an offensive rhythm and contribute t its success. Ray Rice needs to carry the ball and get it on short passes in the open field to take advantage of his elusiveness and return his game and confidence level to what it was and should be. Flacco needs to wing the ball to his wideouts and get the tight ends into the game. The offensive line needs to open the holes for Rice and Ricky Williams and protect Flacco as he waits to find his receivers getting separation and open to move the chains.
A few long drives along with a few quick strikes will be all the medicine the offense will need to put them back on track and perhaps once again at the top of the AFC North as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the New England Patriots in a game that a loss will give the Ravens back the division lead.
That is why the Arizona Cardinals could and absolutely should be the "medicine" to cure the ills the Ravens have had, and at the same time, settle the upset stomachs of their fans to set up a prime time match-up in what has been the league's best rivalry over the past few years. Today will be the start of something good for Baltimore, as the Raven is a much more fierce bird than a little Cardinal. It's time to unleash them and hunt.