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Ravens-Cardinals Week 2: Three Key Matchups

September 13, 2019
WHO: Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
WHERE: M&T Bank Stadium
WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, 1 p.m. EST

Fresh off a record-setting 59-10 rout of the Miami Dolphins in the season opener, the Ravens open the home portion of the 2019 season against the Cardinals, who rallied to tie the Detroit Lions, 27-27, in their  opener.

The Cardinals feature 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray at quarterback along with All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs, who played more regular-season games as a Raven (229) than anyone else in franchise history. Seeing Suggs in a red No. 56 jersey surely will be a jolt to many Ravens fans. 

As the Ravens look to improve to 10-2 in home openers under head coach John Harbaugh, here are three key matchups to watch:

Ravens T Ronnie Stanley or Orlando Brown Jr. vs. Cardinals OLB Terrell Suggs

Stanley and Brown have seen plenty of Suggs on the Owings Mills, Md., practice fields, and now they square off in a real game against the Ravens' all-time sacks leader (132.5). Pass protection last week against Miami was superb, with Ravens quarterbacks sacked once and hit twice in 27 pass plays.

Asked about facing Suggs this week, Stanley said, "You have to respect him for what he's been and what he's done. He's a future Hall of Famer, so you can't sleep on him. You have to be prepared."

Suggs, who turns 37 next month, "hasn't lost a step," Brown said. Suggs had a pair of sacks in his Cardinals debut last week, moving to 12th place on the all-time NFL list. The Ravens tackles also will have to deal with Suggs in run blocking, as he consistently excels in setting the edge.

Ravens TE Mark Andrews vs. Cardinals ILB Jordan Hicks

Andrews followed up his outstanding summer with a team-high eight catches for 108 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins. He has the size and speed to be a matchup problem for linebackers, and he has a chemistry with quarterback Lamar Jackson that he said developed "almost immediately" last year when they were both rookies. 

The Cardinals last week struggled to contain Lions rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson, who finished with six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Hicks, who signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the Cardinals this spring after four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, could be tasked with trying to contain Andrews. Hicks, who missed most of the 2017 season with a torn Achilles tendon, had five interceptions in 2016, his last full season. 

Ravens CB Brandon Carr or Anthony Averett vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald

With Jimmy Smith (knee) sidelined and Tavon Young (neck) out for the season, the role for both Carr and Averett figures to increase,  with one or the other likely to get a majority of work in the slot, where Fitzgerald frequently lines up. And both will be busy against a Cardinals team that likes to line up four or five wide receivers.

Carr will be making his 178th straight start, second-longest active streak in the league (Philip Rivers, 209). He and Fitzgerald, who is in his 16th season, have squared off just twice.

Averett, a fourth-round draft pick last year, moved into the lineup after Smith was injured early last week and finished with four tackles, one more than he registered on defense all of last season. Harbaugh said Averett got stronger as the game went on last week in his most extensive action of his young career, and defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale praised the speed of the 5-foot-11 Alabama product.  

Fitzgerald is an 11-time Pro Bowl pick whose football story will surely end at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. For now, he represents a valuable veteran presence for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is just four years older than his star receiver. In the season opener last week, Fitzgerald led the Cardinals' up-tempo offense with eight catches for 113 yards and one touchdown.

PREDICTION

The Ravens probably can't play any better than they did against overmatched Miami, and the Cardinals' up-tempo, Air Raid offense will be an intriguing test. But the Ravens' defense figures to have its own wrinkles to throw at Kyler Murray, and under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 10-1 when facing a rookie quarterback at M&T Bank Stadium.

A balanced offense led by Lamar Jackson and a defense that makes life tough on Murray will spoil Terrell Suggs' homecoming. Ravens 27, Cardinals 16.

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox