Scouting report

September 23, 2007|By Jamison Hensley

Ravens run offense vs. Cardinals run defense

Willis McGahee has averaged a respectable 87 yards a game but is managing just 3.9 yards a carry. It will be a challenge going against the Cardinals, who have handled Frank Gore (55 yards rushing) and Shaun Alexander (70) this season. The defense is anchored by nose tackle Gabe Watson (332 pounds) and their leading tackler is weak-side linebacker Karlos Dansby. Four of McGahee's 14 career 100-yard games have come against NFC West teams. Edge: Cardinals

Ravens pass offense vs. Cardinals pass defense

Steve McNair returns as starting quarterback after missing last week because of a sore groin. The Ravens could use more three-receiver formations now that Mark Clayton is over ankle and toe injuries. Adam Terry will replace injured Jonathan Ogden (toe) at left tackle and will face Bertrand Berry, who has 38 1/2 sacks in his past 52 games. The Cardinals ranked 30th against the pass last season and have average cornerbacks in Roderick Hood and Eric Green. Edge: Ravens

Cardinals run offense vs. Ravens run defense

Edgerrin James, the NFC's leading rusher, is coming off his best game for the Cardinals, gaining 128 yards and scoring one touchdown. The Cardinals also opened up with consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time since 1988. But few teams have been able to run against the Ravens, who have held opponents to 2.5 yards per carry. Defensive end Dwan Edwards is making his second NFL start, replacing injured Trevor Pryce (broken wrist). Edge: Ravens

Cardinals pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

The Ravens will miss Pryce's ability to pressure up the middle. It will be interesting to see whether the Ravens can generate the same pass rush without him against quarterback Matt Leinart, who has been sacked once this season. He's showing a knack for completing passes in critical situations and is coming off a highly efficient effort (23-for-37 for 299 yards). Arizona receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin will continually test Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister. Rolle, who missed two practices with an undisclosed illness last week, is questionable and could be replaced by Corey Ivy. Edge: Cardinals

Special teams

Rookie return specialist Yamon Figurs showed promise in his first NFL game and could have success against the Cardinals' coverage teams, which are below average. The Ravens' Matt Stover has converted 62 of his past 66 field-goal attempts (94 percent). Neil Rackers' 42-yard field goal with one second left last week marked his first game-winning kick for Arizona. Four of his six kickoffs last game were touchbacks. The Cardinals haven't returned a punt for a touchdown since 1993, the NFL's longest drought in that category. Edge: Ravens

Intangibles

The Ravens have won 12 of their past 13 regular-season games at M&T Bank Stadium, holding teams to an average of 11.7 points in those wins. Dating to 2003, the Ravens are 7-1 at home against NFC teams. In the past three seasons, the Cardinals are 1-5 on road trips to the East Coast, losing by an average margin of 19.4 points. Arizona is looking to go 2-1 for the first time since 1991, when Joe Bugel was coach. Edge: Ravens

Prediction

Until the Ravens get their stars healthy, it will be a struggle to produce a complete game. This one will come down to the fourth quarter again, but the Ravens' defense will respond better this time. Ravens, 26-24

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