Ravens Are Unanimous Pick to Win at Arizona
The Ravens and Cardinals are currently at opposite ends of the NFL hierarchy, and the pundits' picks for Sunday's meeting in Arizona reflect the wide gap between the two teams.
All 54 of the pundits we looked at are predicting a victory for the AFC North-leading Ravens (5-2) over the Cardinals (1-6), who are in last place in the NFC West and one of only two teams in the league with less than two wins. The Ravens' average margin of victory among the 29 pundits who predicted the score is 14.3 points.
Baltimore is coming off its most impressive performance of the season, a 38-6 dismantling of the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions. Arizona, conversely, has lost four in a row, all by double digits.
Of course it goes without saying that there's no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL. The Cardinals' lone victory this season was over the Dallas Cowboys, who were double-digit favorites. The last time the pundits unanimously picked the Ravens to win, they lost to the Indianapolis Colts at home in Week 3.
Here's what pundits are saying about Sunday's game:
The Cardinals are overmatched against the Ravens.
**CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco:** "The Ravens are playing as well as anybody in the league right now. Lamar Jackson and the passing game have it finally rolling, while the defense leads the NFL in points allowed. That's a tough challenge for an undermanned Arizona team that has been ordinary the past few weeks. The Ravens win it big."
The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer: "The Ravens are mostly healthy; the Cardinals are not. The Ravens have Lamar Jackson at quarterback; the Cardinals have Joshua Dobbs (and maybe Kyler Murray). The Ravens lead the NFL in yards per play allowed; the Cardinals rank 29th. Sure, the Ravens stubbed their toe the last time they played a winnable road game, leaving Pittsburgh in Week 5 with one of their worst losses in recent memory. But that was a special level of offensive wastefulness. The Ravens have the upper hand in most on-field matchups, and that should quickly become apparent."
**The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia:** "The case for the Ravens here: They look like one of the NFL's most complete teams. Lamar Jackson is carving defenses up from the pocket and still creating amazing second-reaction plays. Their defense has been outstanding. Their kicking game is elite. And they're well coached. The case for the Cardinals here: They're the contrarian pick. They've lost four straight games by 10-plus points each. Who on earth would put actual money on them at this point? I generally love being on the 'nobody is going to take this team' side, but I have no interest in being a contrarian here."
**USA Today’s Jordan Mendoza:** "Arizona once again faces a tough opponent in what has been a brutal early schedule. Baltimore completely dominated Detroit last week, and while the offense won't be as flashy as it was against the Lions, the Ravens have no trouble in getting their third straight win and staying on top of the AFC North."
Jackson and the offense should continue to roll.
The Athletic's Vic Tafur: "The Ravens offense finally showed up last week and destroyed a good Lions defense. They should be able to carry that over to the desert this week. The Cardinals have blitzed on an NFL-low 8.2 percent of opponent dropbacks, and Ravens QB Lamar Jackson loves that. He leads the NFL with a 110.2 passer rating against a standard rush with a league-best 77.0 percent completion percentage on such throws."
Bold prediction: The Ravens will record their first shutout in five years.
**ESPN’s Jamison Hensley:** "While all the talk has been about quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore defense has been dominant, allowing the fewest points in the NFL (13.9 points per game). The Cardinals have been struggling to find the end zone, scoring one touchdown in their past nine quarters, and will be without starting quarterback Kyler Murray (ACL), No. 1 back James Conner (knee) and top tight end Zach Ertz (quad)."
The Ravens will win, but not as easily as most expect.
The Athletics Jeff Zrebiec: "For the Ravens, it won't come as easy as it did against Detroit. There probably will be a few anxious moments in the desert, but they should handle the Arizona Cardinals."
**The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon:** "If we're following the pattern of this season, this is when the Ravens deliver another frustrating clunker. Arizona has been much worse without injured running back James Conner, but quarterback Joshua Dobbs has flashed at times, particularly as a runner, and wide receiver Marquise Brown could deliver a revenge performance against his former team. In four straight losses against good competition, the Cardinals entered the fourth quarter trailing by an average of 5.8 points. It could be closer than expected Sunday."
Ravens ILB Roquan Smith is a matchup X factor.
**ESPN’s Seth Walder:** "The Cardinals' designed run rate isn't that high because they are often losing and forced to pass. But when the win probability is between 15% and 85%, they're the run-heaviest team in the league. As long as Smith and the Ravens' run-stopping unit do their job, Baltimore should be fine."
|9 of 9 panelists pick Ravens
|4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens
|“Letdown or no letdown, the Ravens will go into Arizona with a significant talent advantage. Lamar Jackson will have plenty of time to find open targets against a defense that struggles to create pressure. The Cardinals, with just 55 points in their past four games, won’t have the firepower to keep up.” — Childs Walker
|8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens
|5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens
|“The Ravens have reached the 30-point mark with Lamar Jackson as their starting quarterback 24 times, according to NFL Research — and they won 23 of those games. The Cardinals aren't allowing quite that much per game, giving up 26 points per contest. I have a feeling Jackson and Co. will be able to close that four-point gap and make this somewhat obscure stat relevant for a second straight week.” — Tom Blair
|10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens
|Ravens 30, Cardinals 10
|“Lamar Jackson is on absolute fire finally with the new offense as all of his wide receivers and tight ends are cooperating. With that the scrambling is back to being awesome and traditional running game is back. He'll make big plays at will again here while former Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown will be contained downfield. Josh Dobbs is falling apart and the Cardinals need Kyler Murray back, stat.” — Vinnie Iyer
|8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens
|“The Ravens are playing as well as anybody in the league right now. Lamar Jackson and the passing game have it finally rolling, while the defense leads the NFL in points allowed. That's a tough challenge for an undermanned Arizona team that has been ordinary the past few weeks. The Ravens win it big.” — Pete Prisco
|Pro Football Talk
|2 of 2 panelists pick Ravens
|"If you’ve got aspirations to go deep into the playoffs you can’t lose to one of the worst teams in football, which the Cardinals are.” — Mike Florio
|7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens
ESPN Ranks Ravens As Second-Most Improved Team
Considering that the Ravens are a perennial playoff team, it seems odd for them to be at the top of a list of the NFL's most improved teams.
However, according to ESPN's Football Power Index, the Ravens' playoff chances have increased from 60 percent in the preseason to 91.5 percent. The 31.5-percent increase is second only to the Miami Dolphins, who went from 52 percent to 93.8 percent.
ESPN's Bill Barnwell said the Ravens have a top-three defense and if their offense plays to its potential, "they would be the league's most complete team."
"Much was made over Lamar Jackson's move into a new offense under former Georgia Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken. So far, it's hard to argue against the idea that replacing Greg Roman with Monken has been a massive success," Barnwell wrote. "Jackson is playing the best football we've seen from him since his MVP season in 2019, and he's better as a passer now than he was then."
Barnwell said the Ravens have fewer question marks than their competitors in a tight AFC North race.
"The 4-2 Steelers have needed Mike Tomlin Magic to pull out several of their wins, including their 17-10 victory over the Ravens in Week 5. Kenny Pickett looked lost before a solid second half against the Rams last Sunday," Barnwell wrote. "The 4-2 Browns are facing an uncertain quarterback situation, while the 3-3 Bengals are two games back and down the tiebreaker to the Ravens in advance of games against the 49ers and Bills over the next two weeks.
"Meanwhile, the Ravens have three of their next four games at home, and their lone road game is a trip to face the Cardinals this week. Coach John Harbaugh's team should be favored to win all four, and if the Ravens get to 9-2, they would be well positioned to compete for the top seed in the AFC. They'll want to bank wins now because they will face the Jaguars, 49ers, Dolphins and Steelers over the final month of the season. Jackson has been sidelined by injury in December each of the past two seasons. If he keeps this up and stays healthy, he could be playing for an MVP award and the top seed in the conference this winter."
Ravens Regarded As Biggest Threat to Chiefs
There's still a lot of football to be played, but as we near the halfway point of the season, the Ravens have the look of a Super Bowl contender.
CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr ranked seven teams with a legitimate shot of winning the Super Bowl. The Ravens landed at No. 3, trailing only the teams that played in last year's Super Bowl – the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.
"If Jackson can stay healthy, the Ravens are the biggest threat to the Chiefs in the AFC," Kerr wrote. "They've limped to the finish line over the last two seasons, but this team appears to be too talented for that to happen again. Again, this all comes down to Jackson staying on the field."
Earlier this week, NFL Network's Rich Eisen said the notion that the Ravens are a legitimate Super Bowl contender is definitely not an overreaction.
Eisen marveled at Jackson's MVP-worthy season and said the Ravens also have a championship caliber defense.
"They can keep [Chiefs quarterback Patrick] Mahomes off the field," Eisen said. "They can chase Mahomes around. They can bracket [Chiefs tight end Travis] Kelce and say who else is going to beat us. They can do that, and their special teams as we all know is very special. That's for sure. That's not an overreaction."