Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Jr. talks about facing former Ravens Terrell Suggs when the Arizona Cardinals come to M&T Bank Stadium.
Here’s who has the edge on offense, defense and special teams in Sunday’s Week 2 game between the Ravens and Cardinals at M&T Bank Stadium.
RAVENS PASSING GAME: Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson can’t pass any more efficiently than he did in the team’s season-opening 59-10 win over the Miami Dolphins. Jackson threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns on just 20 attempts, becoming the youngest player in history to post a perfect passer rating. He forged an instant connection with rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown, who scored touchdowns of 47 and 83 yards on his first two NFL catches. Jackson also threw touchdown passes to wide receivers Willie Snead IV and Miles Boykin and fullback Patrick Ricard. Tight end Mark Andrews was his favorite downfield target in 2018, and they built on their chemistry against the Dolphins. Andrews finished with eight catches on eight targets for 108 yards and a touchdown. Jackson faced questions about his accuracy after completing 58.2% of his passes as a rookie, but for now, those questions are on hold.
CARDINALS PASSING GAME: The Cardinals wasted no time turning their offense over to No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner got off to a rough start in Arizona’s season-opening tie with the Detroit Lions, but rallied the Cardinals to score 18 points in the fourth quarter. Murray completed 29 of 54 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns, but he also took five sacks, threw an interception and had a string of passes batted down. Murray found his greatest success targeting veteran star Larry Fitzgerald, who finished with eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, and running back David Johnson, who caught six passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. He was less successful going to wide receiver Christian Kirk, who caught just four passes on 12 targets. Former Ravens wide receiver Michael Crabtree was inactive against the Lions, but Arizona’s first-year head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, said Crabtree will likely play in Baltimore.
RAVENS RUNNING GAME: Mark Ingram II’s Ravens debut was overshadowed by Jackson’s performance, but the veteran running back blasted through the line for 49 yards on his first carry and finished with 107 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries overall. Gus Edwards, the team’s most productive runner in the second half of last season, was less efficient, with 56 yards on 17 carries in the opener. Rookie Justice Hill carried seven times for 27 yards in his debut. All three running backs carried on the team’s opening scoring drive, a preview of the multiheaded approach offensive coordinator Greg Roman will likely use. Jackson ran just three times for six yards, far below his averages for last season. He threw so well that he had little reason to take off, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Jackson will still run when the opportunities arise.
CARDINALS RUNNING GAME: Johnson had a down season in 2018 after missing all but one game in 2017. But the former All-Pro was back to his vintage form against the Lions, carrying 18 times for 82 yards in addition to his work as a receiver out of the backfield. Murray is also a threat to run, though he gained just 13 yards against Detroit. It’s hard to gauge how much Kingsbury wants to run based on the opener, because the Cardinals played from behind for most of the game.
RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens smothered Miami’s running game in the opener, allowing just 21 yards on 12 carries. Patrick Onwuasor played well in his first game stepping in for C.J. Mosley at middle linebacker, roving all over the field for a team-high five tackles. In a minor surprise, Kenny Young started beside him at weak-side linebacker instead of Chris Board. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce faced questions about his weight and conditioning going into training camp, but he produced in the sweltering Miami heat, with three tackles, including one for loss.
CARDINALS RUSH DEFENSE: The Cardinals held the Lions to a relatively inefficient 116 yards on 32 carries. That was a significant improvement over 2018, when Arizona allowed the most rushing yards and third-most yards per attempt of any team in the league. Veteran middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is one of the NFL’s steadier run defenders and a major addition to the Cardinals. He finished with 14 tackles, including two for loss, against Detroit. Former first-round pick Haason Reddick starts beside Hicks at inside linebacker. Nose tackle Corey Peters is Arizona’s most productive interior lineman, coming off a career-high 50 tackles in 2018.
RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens harassed Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick into a 14-for-29 performance, but Fitzpatrick did find openings downfield after cornerback Jimmy Smith left the game with a knee sprain. Second-year cornerback Anthony Averett stepped in for Smith, who will miss multiple weeks. Veteran cornerback Brandon Carr mostly stayed inside, filling the gap left by a season-ending neck injury to Tavon Young. Safety Earl Thomas III intercepted a pass in his Ravens debut as did cornerback Marlon Humphrey. The Ravens hardly skipped a beat in their pass rush, sacking Fitzpatrick twice and laying 12 hits overall on Miami’s quarterbacks. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon was their top performer off the edge, with a sack and two tackles for loss.
CARDINALS PASS DEFENSE: This was the Cardinals’ greatest strength in 2018, when they finished fourth in the league in pass defense. But they’re playing without their best cornerback, Patrick Peterson, who’s serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The Cardinals still possess a formidable pass rush, bolstered by the offseason addition of longtime Ravens star Terrell Suggs, who posted two sacks in his Arizona debut. Suggs joins Chandler Jones, who had 13 sacks last season and added another in the opener against Detroit. Despite the best efforts of Suggs and Jones, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1.
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Ravens gained 60 yards on a fake punt and recovered a muffed punt against the Dolphins, so they won on special teams despite quiet days for Justin Tucker, who attempted one field goal, and Sam Koch, who needed to punt just once. Hill mishandled his first NFL kickoff return and gained just nine yards on the play. Cyrus Jones, continuing in the role he seized last season, returned two punts for 29 yards.
CARDINALS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Cardinals struggled to find a kicker last season before going with Zane Gonzalez, who made all four of his field-goal attempts in the tie with the Lions. Andy Lee has a big leg and finished sixth in net punting average last season. Kirk was a below-average punt returner last season, averaging just 7.8 yards on 21 attempts. The Cardinals played well in punt coverage last week, holding the Lions to negative yardage on five returns.
RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens could not be riding higher after their record-setting demolition of the Dolphins. They’ve traditionally dominated rookie quarterbacks at M&T Bank Stadium, and Harbaugh always has his team ready to play early in the season, with a 17-2 home record in September over 11 seasons.
CARDINALS INTANGIBLES: Murray earned his teammates’ confidence by rallying the Cardinals against Detroit. Suggs will certainly be hyped to perform well in Baltimore coming off a stellar debut for his new team. Kingsbury will coach his first NFL road game.
PREDICTION: The Cardinals will offer a sterner test than the Dolphins, with an exciting rookie quarterback in Murray and standout skill players in Johnson and Fitzgerald. But Jackson will take advantage of a secondary diminished by the suspension of Peterson, and the Ravens will wear down a less talented opponent at home. Ravens 34, Cardinals 20.