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Wednesdays With Walker: Week 8, Ravens vs. Cardinals

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Before we dive head first into the Cardinals game, we’ll take a quick look back at Monday night’s fiasco in Jacksonville. Below are a few key points I took out of that “game.”

  • The Ravens always seem sloppy and disinterested when they play on national TV, at least the offense does. For as long as I can remember, the passing game has always been poor when the team plays on ESPN or NBC, and the defense has to try to claw out a win.
  • The only time in the last three years where I can remember the Ravens playing a nice, complete game on national TV was in 2009, when they defeated the Steelers (who were quarterbacked by Dennis Dixon) at M&T Bank Stadium. Paul Kruger had the key play in that game, picking off a pass in overtime to set up Billy Cundiff’s game-winning field goal.
  • The Ravens only ran 12 run plays, while Joe Flacco passed the ball 38 times. They were never down by enough points to justify passing on every down, so why did it end up that way? In every game the Ravens win, they establish a solid ground game early, and follow Ray Rice to victory. When Flacco finishes the first half with a completion percentage under 50%, and less than 10 total passing yards, why do you continue to throw the ball?
  • The defense was, as always, solid. This team is looking more and more like one of the Matt Stover era, where the defense would be responsible for most of the points, and the offense would be pressed to produce anything more than three points on any particular drive.

It was a bad game, hopefully the Ravens can erase it from their memories and move on. The Cardinals are not much better than the Jags, but are also not much worse.

The Ravens will have to key in on Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday. (Photo credit to SI/CNN)

On The Fritz Fitz

Honestly, the only aspect of the Cardinals offense I worry about is Larry Fitzgerald. The loss against the Titans came mostly due to the lack of quality coverage of Kenny Britt. Fitzgerald is like Britt, expect quicker, more physical, and just overall better.

If the secondary can find a way to keep Fitz relatively quiet, and remove that threat from the Cards’ offense, it will be pretty tough for them to put up many points. Beanie Wells isn’t anything special, and aside from Fitz, the Cardinals don’t have any true offensive weapons.

“No thanks, I’ll pass on the Rice this time.”

Although the paragraph heading is unbearably corny, it’s a relatively simple idea. Ray Rice is the key to the Ravens’ offense. Don’t buy into all this “Flacco is the future” garbage. When Ray Rice runs the ball effectively, the team wins, because the defense does its job well enough to get a positive result. Once Rice begins to rattle off some big runs, the play-action pass becomes dangerous, and Flacco is able to find his receivers easily. We’ve seen it time after time, and it always seems to work out. The Jacksonville game was considered an easy win, but Ray Rice was a non-factor simply because Cam Cameron did not get him involved enough. This Arizona game at home should be an easy win, but only if Rice has a big game.

Yes, Jimmy Smith Is Still Alive

Jimmy Smith looks to make his return to the defense on Sunday. (Photo credit to BaltimoreRavens.com)

What, you didn’t see Jimmy Smith playing on Monday night? Maybe that’s because he only appeared on special teams in his return from injury. John Harbaugh said that the team is trying to ease him back into the game, which means that Smith will probably see some time as the nickel back against Arizona on Sunday. If you’re at the game, or have some kind of special function on your TV, keep an eye on him. Sometimes, a serious ankle injury like that one will make guys nervous to cut sharply, and the Cardinals may try to take advantage of that with quick routes over the middle of the field when Smith is in man coverage.

Prediction

We’ll cut straight to the prediction. I fully expect the Ravens to come out with a chip on their shoulders, led by Ray Lewis and the defense. Look for Kevin Kolb to have a nightmarish day in Baltimore, with Terrell Suggs getting to him at least twice. With that said, I still think Cam Cameron calls a poor offensive game, and it takes a while for the offense to get rolling. Again, Ray Rice is the key. I’m predicting a 24-10 win, although it might remain close until deep into the second half.