After dismantling Miami in Week 1, the Ravens are nearly two touchdown favorites against Arizona in Week 2. Home field advantage and an early kickoff time slot will be working in Baltimore’s favor.
However, the Cardinals are no pushover, they rallied in the fourth quarter to tie Detroit last Sunday. New head coach Kliff Kinsgbury’s roster and schemes epitomize the new pass-first NFL. They will spread the Ravens shorthanded defense out and apply pressure off the edges. Baltimore will aim to exploit their pass blocking with A-gap blitzes while attacking Arizona’s vulnerable secondary with Mark Andrews and company.
The indirect matchup between Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray, two electrifying young dual threat quarterbacks, will be intriguing. Yet these three direct battles hold the keys to victory:
Brandon Carr vs Larry Fitzgerald:
The consummate professional, Fitzgerald, can still produce at age 36, as evidenced by his eight catch, 113-yard 2019 debut that included a touchdown and several highlight reel grabs. He has transitioned into a big slot receiver over the last couple seasons, a trend that has continued within Kingsbury’s ‘10’ personnel based system.
Larry will likely be covered primarily by fellow classy veteran Brandon Carr. Carr served as the Ravens slot corner almost exclusively in Week 1 following Tavon Young’s injury. Carr may eventually shift back to his usual outside corner position during Jimmy Smith’s absence, but he should probably remain in the slot to counter Fitzgerald this week.
Assuming Marlon Humphrey can lock down KeeSean Johnson and his side of the field, Arizona’s slot receivers Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk will determine the success of their air raid attack.
Orlando Brown Jr. vs Chandler Jones:
Former Ravens icon Terrell Suggs and bookend pass rusher Chandler Jones will takes turns squaring off against Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown, respectively. Jones’ quick first step and edge bending agility figure to be a challenge for Brown.
With four straight seasons of at least 11 sacks, including 30 over the last two years, Chandler is one of the premier sack artists in the NFL. He beat Lions tackle Taylor Decker for a trifecta sack-strip-recovery last week. Jones is a handful for every tackle in the league.
A quarterback with the escapability of Lamar Jackson is certainly helpful. And the Ravens can always chip with blocking tight end Nick Boyle. Still, preventing Jones and Suggs from examining Jackson’s ball security would be beneficial.
Patrick Onwuasor vs David Johnson:
‘Peanut’ fared well as the defensive signal caller against Miami, the defense held Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage to 39 combined yards from scrimmage. Onwuasor will face a more formidable back in Week 2.
David Johnson remains one of the best pass catching backs around, he gained 55-yards and scored on six receptions last week. Picking up receivers out of the backfield was a weakness for the Ravens in training camp, the Cardinals will probably aim to isolate Johnson on Baltimore’s inside linebackers.
Arizona is unlikely to gain many yards on the ground due to the Ravens run stuffing defensive lineman and speedy linebackers. Winning the third down battle will often come down to stopping Johnson short of the chains.
Score Prediction: Ravens 30, Cardinals 20