Ravens At Cardinals

Nfl Week 6

Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz., 4:15 P.m., Ch. 13

October 12, 2003|By Jamison Hensley

SCOUTING REPORT

Ravens run offense vs. Cardinals run defense -- RAVENS

With the league's top rushing attack, the Ravens are running the ball with a more physical style than during their Super Bowl season. Jamal Lewis, who is averaging an NFL-high 152.8 yards a game, is looking to set a team record with his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. Arizona is allowing 3.2 yards a carry, which is tied for fourth best in the league, but no team has really attacked the Cardinals primarily on the ground. The Ravens will try to test the mobility of Arizona's big front four with stretch runs to the outside and challenge the suspect tackling of the Cardinals' secondary.

Ravens pass offense vs. Cardinals pass defense -- EVEN

Interceptions remain the wild card to the Ravens' success. That's why rookie quarterback Kyle Boller (four interceptions in his past six quarters) will stick to a scaled-down game plan of short passes and quick decisions. The next step for Boller is to hit the intermediate crossing and curl patterns, and he should have his best opportunity of the year against the worst pass rush in the league and marginal cornerbacks Renaldo Hill and David Barrett. Quarterbacks have posted an outstanding 100.9 passer rating against Arizona this season. But the Ravens have been equally inept with the NFL's most futile passing attack (103.5 yards a game). A Ravens receiver other than Todd Heap has to create separation from defensive backs and make a big catch.

Cardinals run offense vs. Ravens run defense -- RAVENS

This could possibly be the biggest mismatch of the Ravens' season. After giving up a combined 195 yards rushing to Pro Bowl running backs Priest Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson, the Ravens will be seeking to re-establish themselves against a nonexistent Cardinals running attack that ranks third-to-last in the NFL. The Ravens have limited running backs to 3.7 yards a carry, which is eighth best in the league. With Emmitt Smith injured, the Cardinals will turn to Marcel Shipp, who has 80 yards on 24 carries.

Cardinals pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense -- RAVENS

After a poor start to the season in Pittsburgh, the Ravens' pass defense has ascended to ninth in the league over its past three games by giving up short passes and eliminating big plays. Their former starting quarterback, Jeff Blake, is a strong test because of his experience in finding holes in zones. But he is handcuffed by a string of injuries that has left him with three healthy receivers (Anquan Boldin, Bryan Gilmore and Nate Poole). Boldin, the NFL's top offensive rookie for the first month of the season, lacks speed and could have a tough time manufacturing big plays after the catch against the Ravens' sure-tackling secondary. The Ravens believe they will have chances to pick off Blake since they know how he likes to force throws over the middle.

Special teams -- EVEN

A game removed from allowing a game-winning kickoff return for a touchdown, the Ravens will have another tough challenge with Arizona's Josh Scobey. Although he hasn't created the same fanfare as Kansas City's Dante Hall, Scobey can be just as dangerous, averaging 31 yards a return. The Ravens, though, have been solid in coverage, holding teams to returns of 6 yards on punts and 22.4 yards on kickoffs. Ravens kicker Matt Stover has converted five straight field-goal attempts; Arizona's Bill Gramatica is questionable with a back injury.

Intangibles -- RAVENS

The Ravens look refocused after the bye, offsetting any disadvantage of traveling cross-country. Besides that, the Ravens are 3-0 on West Coast trips under coach Brian Billick. The 90-degree temperature could affect the Ravens, but the Cardinals are the ones feeling the heat after being outscored 61-20 the past two weeks. Plus, the lackluster Arizona fan base makes Sun Devil Stadium more like a neutral site.

Prediction -- RAVENS

The Ravens may be looking past the Cardinals, but they won't pass up a chance at knocking down Blake's confidence a few notches. The defense will set the tone by shutting down the run and then picking off Blake a couple of times when Arizona gets pass-happy. Look for the Ravens to take control from the start before allowing a couple of inconsequential scores. Ravens, 30-13.

BREAKDOWN

Records

Ravens 2-2 Cardinals 1-4

Line

Ravens by 5 1/2

Vs. spread

Ravens 2-2 Cardinals 1-4

Series

Tied 1-1

Last meeting

Ravens won, 13-7, on Dec. 17, 2000, in Arizona.

NFL rankings

Ravens offense: Overall (21), rush (1), pass (32).

Ravens defense: Overall (8), rush (14), pass (9).

Cardinals offense: Overall (29), rush (30), pass (17).

Cardinals defense: Overall (21), rush (11), pass (26).

Quick hits

Ravens QB Kyle Boller has the worst passer rating (46.8) among the league's starters.

Ravens RB Jamal Lewis leads NFL with in rushing and has more yards (611) on the ground than 25 of the other 31 teams.

Cardinals have NFL's worst turnover differential at minus-11. They have more giveaways (15) than any other team and are tied for last with only four takeaways.

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