A closer look at the Cardinals

Every Tuesday we’ll take a look at the Ravens’ next opponent. This Sunday it’s the Arizona Cardinals.

Record: (1-5, 0-1) 3rd NFC West

Wins: vs. Carolina

Losses: @ Washington, @ Seattle, vs. New York Giants, @ Minnesota, @ Pittsburgh

Offense: 20th in NFL, 13th in NFC

Defense: 19th in NFL, seventh in NFC

Synopsis thus far: For the second straight week, the Ravens will take on a team in the midst of a five-game losing streak. As far as the Ravens are concerned, however, they’re hoping things go much better than Monday night’s loss to Jacksonville. Coincidentally, the Cardinals also secured their only win on opening day, defeating Carolina at home by a touchdown. Since then it’s been all losses for the Cardinals, a team that was expected to battle St. Louis for the divisional crown. At the individual level, Arizona has a number of impressive names, including running back Beanie Wells and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. But with the 24th ranked rushing attack and the 13th ranked passing game, it’s clear this team should be doing more with the talent it has. Those struggles, of course, stem mainly from a defense that is 28th in the league against the pass. That kind of weakness could be the perfect remedy for Baltimore’s inconsistent passing game.

Where they’re strong: Despite lackluster play through six games, the Cardinals still boast a potent offense, and that’s especially true during the third quarter. During that 15-minute span, quarterback Kevin Kolb’s numbers see a significant increase, with game-highs in yards per attempt (9.3), sacks taken (just three) and quarterback rating (93.0). Fitzgerald will undoubtedly hold the attention of Ravens safety Ed Reed, meaning Kolb will look to stretch the field with his other targets. Speaking of other targets, one most Baltimore fans will be excited to see make his return to the Charm City is tight end Todd Heap. Heap played for the Ravens for the past decade and was a fan favorite before being let go in the offseason. He’s back on the other sideline this time, however, and will likely be a comfortable option for the young quarterback.

Where they’re weak: The defense is the most alarming need for this young unit. Arizona drafted cornerback Patrick Peterson with the fifth overall selection this past April, but so far the team is still struggling against the pass (28th). The Cardinals are also 28th in points per game allowed and 14th against the run. In addition to poor numbers on the defensive side, the Cardinals are also fairly undisciplined. In six games they’ve committed 17 penalties that resulted in first downs for their opponents and with the Ravens struggling in that area, too, Sunday’s game could see a lot of yellow.

History: Ravens own 3-1 advantage. Last meeting was 9/23/07 in Baltimore. Baltimore won 26-23.

Overall advantage: This one is tough to call. Before last night, I’d have put money on the home team, but with Baltimore’s offense struggling, this could either be a huge bounce-back game for the Ravens or another 60-minute session of trying to figure out what is going wrong. For now, I’ll stick with the Ravens, but it’ll be close.