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Ravens vs. Cardinals potential X factors: Mark Andrews poised to stay hot in homecoming

This interconference clash could be decided by contributions from a handful of players in all three phases.

Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens are back on the road in Week 8 after a brief one-game stint at home and will take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. They are heading into the interconference matchup as mighty road favorites to come out on top as they look to win their third straight.

In almost every game, there is a play or two made that helped swing the momentum back into a team’s favor or extend their lead to put an opponent away for good. There are a handful of select players who either aren’t being talked about as much ahead of this game or are primed to have a big day

Below are some of those individual players that could prove to be deciding factors in avoiding a potential.

TE Mark Andrews

Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The three-time Pro Bowler grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona which is a little over half an hour from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona where he’ll be playing on Sunday. He’s been on a nice productive hot streak in the month of October and likely won’t cool down in his homecoming against one of the worst pass defenses in the league. The Cardinals have given up the seventh-most passing yards and the fourth-most touchdowns through the air thus far this season.

Andrews has recorded at least four receptions and eclipsed 60 receiving yards in each of his last four games and has already matched his touchdown total from last season with a team-leading five. Expect to see him have a big day in his first regular season game playing in his home state. The Ravens played the Cardinals in Baltimore in 2019 and he didn’t dress for the preseason game they played in Arizona last year.

DB Geno Stone

Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The fourth-year pro will be making his fifth start of the season and 13th of his career now that veteran Marcus Williams was officially ruled out on the final injury report. Stone has more than filled in admirably in his absence and even leads the league in interceptions with a career-high four through seven games and has recorded one in back-to-back games and in three of his last four.

While the primary responsibility of covering former Ravens first-round wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown will fall on the team’s cornerbacks most of the time, Stone will be integral in ensuring that the blazing speedster can’t consistently threaten or make plays deep down the field. His ability to be a rangy ball magnet will be a tremendous asset in limiting the explosive play capability of his former teammate and the rest of the Cardinals’ passing attack.

RB Gus Edwards

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The sixth-year veteran is coming off his most productive outing of the season by far in Week 7 when he led the team in rushing with a season-high 64 yards on 14 carries and scored his second touchdown of the season. He also led the team in receiving yards courtesy of a career-long catch and run of 80 yards on a brilliantly improvised play by quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Even though Edwards hasn’t started the Ravens’ last two games, he’s been the far more productive running back between him and fifth-year veteran Justice Hill. Going against a Cardinals defense that is even worse at stopping the run than they are at limiting opposing passing attacks, Gus the Bus could be in store for his best game yet as a pure rusher and could wind up being just the second Raven to rush for 100 or more yards in a game and the first non-quarterback. Hill will likely see a fair amount of the workload as well and if undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell is healthy enough to play, hopefully, he will see some action too.

DT Travis Jones

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The second-year pro has been raising his level of play as the season has gone along, playing an integral role in stifling opposing rushing attacks, and is coming on more as a pass rusher as of late. He is coming off a strong Week 7 performance where he played season-high 35 defensive snaps which was nearly half (47 percent) of the team’s total on the day and he finished with three total tackles including two solos and his first quarterback hit of the season.

Although they’ve been without two-time Pro Bowl running back James Conner the past two weeks since he landed on injured reserve, Arizona still has the fifth-ranked rushing attack in the league. Jones will need to continue to step up his game and be stout up the middle alongside the Ravens’ other stud interior defensive linemen such as Michael Pierce, Broderick Washington, Brent Urban, and Justin Madubuike.

WR Rashod Bateman

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A lot of attention in this matchup will be on the two undersized wide receivers that the Ravens drafted in the last five years. Brown, who they took in 2019, now plays for the Cardinals and leads his team in several categories, and Zay Flowers, who they took this past spring, leads the team in several receiving categories. However, their 2021 first-rounder could be in store for a big game as well against a leaky Arizona pass defense. Bateman will be going up against a pair of uninspiring starting cornerbacks on the perimeter with Marco Wilson and Starling Thomas V so he and several other Ravens’ wideouts could potentially have big days.

The third-year pro is also coming off his best game of the season thus far in which he made a pair of crucial catches on the Ravens’ second scoring drive in Week 7 and finished with a season-high 36 receiving yards. His ability to separate and find a way to get and stay open even when he’s not the first, second, or even third read on a given play is impressive and will only continue to gain him more trust and favor with Jackson when he operates inside and outside of structure.

EDGE Jadeveon Clowney

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The three-time Pro Bowler didn’t get in on the sack party last week when the Ravens increased their league-leading total to 29 but he was still a mainstay in the Lions backfield as he has been against most other teams this year. His ability to consistently generate pressure helps set up several of his teammates to get home for sacks even on plays where he doesn’t or can’t finish.

Clowney is tied for second on the team in sacks with 3.5 and is only a week removed from notching two in one game over in London. With third-year outside linebacker Odafe Oweh dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to pop up on the injury report late in the week and miss practice on Friday, the 10th-year veteran and former No. 1 overall pick could see a heavier workload which would mean more opportunities to make his presence felt and wreak the Cardinals’ offensive game plan.