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One reception separates Ravens' Steve Smith Sr., Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald

One reception separates Ravens' Steve Smith Sr., Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald
Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (951 career catches) and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (952 catches) are neck-and-neck on the all-time receptions list. (Nick Wass and Don Wright/Associated Press)

They won't meet on the field tonight, but Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are competing nonetheless.

Fitzgerald, 32, has 952 career receptions. Smith, 36 and perhaps in his last NFL season, has 951.

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Assuming Smith decides to retire after this season -- he announced that intention before the season began and has told reporters that plan remains "on schedule" -- the younger Fitzgerald will almost certainly finish his career with more catches than Smith.

That doesn't mean the Ravens' best receiver can't finish this season on top of Fitzgerald. The pair are among four NFL pass-catchers (San Francisco's Anquan Boldin and Dallas' Jason Witten are the others) within striking distance of 1,000 career catches this season.

Just 10 receivers have that many; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward (1,000 catches) was the last player to join the club, in 2011.

Smith and Fitzgerald are having outstanding seasons. Smith, despite missing one game, leads the Ravens in receiving with 36 catches, 510 yards and three touchdowns. Fitzgerald last had 1,000 receiving yards in a season in 2011, but is well on his way this year: he's caught 43 passes for 583 yards and six touchdowns.

Their teams, though, are on entirely different trajectories. The Ravens are in last place in the AFC North division with a stunning 1-5 record -- Smith being the only consistent receiver being one reason, a struggling secondary being another, bigger reason -- while the Cardinals are 4-2 and in first place in the AFC West thanks to an explosive offense and one of the league's best secondaries.

That's one reason why Fitzgerald might pad his lead on Smith during this game.

The Cardinals allow 224 passing yards per game (seventh-best in the NFL) and have a league-leading 11 interceptions. The Ravens have the No. 29 pass defense and have allowed 284 passing yards per game. They've intercepted three passes.

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