Twelve Ravens Thoughts (and a prediction) ahead of Week 8 matchup at Arizona

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marquisebrown 1
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With the Ravens striving to remain in first place in the AFC North by earning a season-best third straight win at Arizona on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Lamar Jackson entered Week 8 first in PFF grading, seventh in ESPN’s QBR, seventh in DVOA, second in completion percentage, third in yards per pass attempt, and third in passer rating. His play was tremendously special in that 2019 MVP season, but he’s moving closer and closer to that territory. 

2. Roquan Smith is a breath of fresh air in an environment consumed by paranoia. Asked about the shoulder issue that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice, the Pro Bowl linebacker said, “Just as sure as the sun shines on Sunday, you’ll see me out there.”

3. Kyler Murray was upgraded to full practice participation Wednesday, but I have a tough time believing the Arizona coaches view a matchup with one of the NFL’s best defenses as the best time to activate their quarterback after just a handful of practices. That said, the Cardinals face Cleveland next. 

4. While Arizona’s quarterback situation hasn’t helped, Marquise Brown hasn’t seen his career take off how he envisioned it upon exiting Baltimore. The 2019 first-round pick is a pretty good receiver, but the Ravens have no long-term regrets about trading him despite that leaving them shorthanded at the position last season. 

5. With the blowout win over Detroit reminding of the 2021 victory over the Chargers, it’s worth noting Baltimore followed that with a 24-point loss to Cincinnati the following week. That team also followed an overtime win over Minnesota with a dud of a loss at Miami. Momentum can be fleeting.

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6. That said, the “pesky” label attached to Arizona early on hasn’t fit since its Week 3 upset win over Dallas. After a surprisingly solid start, Joshua Dobbs has completed just under 52% of his passes and averaged just 5.16 yards per pass attempt over the last three games. 

7. Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses will need to be ready to slow down the Cardinals’ solid group of edge rushers that includes the versatile Zaven Collins, Dennis Gardeck, and Victor Dimukeje. Though far from game-wreckers, they are the most talented position group on the Arizona defense.  

8. You’d love to see the passing game stack another strong performance against a Cardinals defense ranking 23rd in passing yards per game allowed, 30th in yards per pass attempt allowed, and 31st in pass defense DVOA. Arizona’s defense ranks 14th in the red zone and has 10 takeaways, however. 

9. A 1-6 team sporting a plus-3 turnover ratio is unusual, but the Cardinals have committed five turnovers over their last three games. Arizona’s path to a chance at an upset is Jackson and Baltimore getting sloppy with the football, which has certainly happened at times this season. 

10. Mike Macdonald and incumbent coaches deserve much credit for the league’s top-ranked scoring defense, but the additions of outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith and defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson have looked like home runs. Even dealing with multiple injuries, those position groups have fared exceptionally well. 

11. I admired Todd Monken’s measured response to Kurt Warner’s passing game critique. “There were some elite things that we did, and there were some things for sure we have to clean up and not just count on that [Jackson] is going to run around and make a play, right?”

12. After this trip to the desert, the Ravens won’t play another road game until after Thanksgiving. Considering the amount of travel and their first three division games all came on the road, John Harbaugh gladly would have signed up for a 4-1 away record — if Baltimore wins Sunday.  

Prediction: As thoroughly impressive as the Ravens were in dismantling the upstart Lions last week, a loss to the one-win Cardinals would all but erase that perceived progress and put Baltimore back in the category of playoff contenders you don’t really trust. This will only be the Ravens’ second trip to Arizona in the last 20 years and you always wonder how any team will handle the travel and time change, but the Cardinals have looked the part of a bottom-five team since their win over the Cowboys. Though that outcome should have been more than enough for Harbaugh to keep his team from getting too high this past week, the Ravens still have a distinct edge in talent to endure the potential for somewhat of a letdown. Baltimore wins 26-10 in a matchup that will never seriously feel like it’s in doubt. 

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