The Ravens travel west of the Mississippi River for the fourth time this season, as Baltimore looks to get its disastrous season on track at Arizona. The Cardinals return home after an ugly loss at Pittsburgh, just the second setback in six games as Arizona attempts to maintain its lead inside the NFC West to close out Week 7.
How bad has it been for Baltimore in 2015? The Ravens (1-5 straight up, 0-5-1 against the spread) are the only team in the league that has yet to cover a game, with their lone victory at Pittsburgh coming as three-point favorites in a 23-20 overtime win in Week 4. John Harbaugh’s team had high expectations after falling short of the AFC championship last season, but the Ravens’ defense has let them down, ranking 27th in pass defense and 27th in points allowed per game (27.0).
All five losses suffered by the Ravens have come by six points or less, including three defeats with the lead in the fourth quarter. Baltimore came out flat in last Sunday’s Super Bowl rematch from three seasons ago in a 25-20 setback at San Francisco as 2 ½-point road favorites. The Ravens didn’t score their first touchdown until late in the third quarter, while Joe Flacco threw a pair of interceptions in spite of 343 yards passing. Baltimore has been favored five times this season, going 0-2-1 ATS as road chalk, while losing in its lone underdog spot at Denver in Week 1.
The Cardinals (4-2 SU/ATS) have been in control in the NFC West with the Seahawks, Rams, and 49ers struggling early. Arizona can rebuild a 1 ½-game advantage over St. Louis with a victory on Monday, as the Cards were held to three points in the second half of a 25-13 loss at Pittsburgh last Sunday.Carson Palmer eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark for the fourth time this season by throwing for 421 yards, but was also intercepted twice. Chris Johnson had run the ball well in his comeback tour with the Cardinals, but the former Pro Bowler was limited to 40 yards on the ground.
From a totals standpoint, Arizona finally cashed an ‘under’ following a five straight ‘overs,’ including a 3-0 mark to the ‘over’ at University of Phoenix Stadium. In two of those ‘overs’ at home, a late touchdown by Arizona has hit the ‘over,’ including a 55-yard touchdown pass by Palmer in the opener against the Saints to barely go ‘over’ the total of 48 ½ in a 31-19 win. The Ravens are 4-1 to the ‘over’ since cashing an ‘under’ at Denver in the opener, while going 8-5-1 to the ‘over’ on the road since the start of 2014.
The last time these teams met came in 2011, as the Ravens erased a 24-3 deficit to stun the Cardinals, 30-27. Arizona entered the game as 12-point road underdogs, while benefiting from an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Patrick Peterson in the first half. Ray Rice rushed for three touchdowns as the Ravens’ defense limited Arizona to 207 yards. The Ravens have won four straight matchups in the series since 2000, while making its first trip to the desert since 2003 and visiting Glendale for the first time.
VegasInsider.com handicapper Joe Nelson says the Ravens are in a must-win spot from here on out, “This franchise has finished no worse than 8-8 in seven straight seasons since 2008 with a consistent track record of success. The Baltimore defense finished in the top 10 of the league last season in total defense and yards per play defense but those numbers have slipped dramatically through six games this season. With Cincinnati at 6-0 and the Steelers and Browns looking like competitive teams in the AFC North, it is hard to say if the Ravens will be able salvage a run back to respectability or if this is a team that will sink further in a lost season.”
On the flip side, Nelson believes the Cardinals have to take advantage on Monday following last week’s setback, “It does feel like Arizona has missed an opportunity to be even further in front of the division race dropping games with St. Louis and Pittsburgh in two of the last three weeks. The four wins for Arizona have all come against losing teams and they have had 13 turnovers go their way in the wins as there is valid reason to be suspect of the Cardinals as a legitimate NFC contender. The Cardinals are a top 10 team in both scoring and total defense as well as the numbers add up, but Arizona has also committed 10 turnovers this season and the protection for injury-prone Palmer has had plenty of breakdowns leading to some big plays the other way.”
The Cardinals own a 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS record in their last four Monday night games since 2009, while failing to cover against another AFC foe, San Diego in the 2014 opener in a one-point victory. Under Bruce Arians, Arizona has had plenty of success in interconference play, winning seven of eight meetings against the AFC, including a perfect 4-0 mark at home.
The Ravens have won three straight Monday night contests, which includes road victories over NFC opponents the last two seasons at Detroit (2013) and New Orleans (2014). Baltimore has been listed as an underdog of higher than eight points only once under Harbaugh, coming in the 2012 exciting double-overtime victory at Denver in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
The ‘under’ has been nearly automatic on Monday night this season, hitting in six of seven contests. The underdog is 5-2 ATS on Mondays, but home teams have won five of seven times, including Philadelphia’s 27-7 blowout of New York last week.