What to watch for in Cardinals-Ravens on 'MNF'

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The Baltimore Ravens (1-5) travel to the desert in desperate need of victory. The Arizona Cardinals (4-2) are coming off a disappointing loss in Week 6 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With both birds craving victory, here are five things to watch:

Arizona's high-flying offense


The Cardinals boast the highest-flying offense in the NFL, with 203 points scored, have the highest point differential at +88 and are averaging 400-plus yards of offense per game. Carson Palmer has thrown for 1,737 yards (fourth in NFL) with 9.0 yards per attempt (third). However, in Week 6 he was erratic despite throwing for 400 yards in the loss. He should rebound against a extraordinarily weak Ravens secondary.

The Baltimore defense has struggled this year compared to recent seasons dating back to the beginning of the John Harbaugh era:

2008-2014: 18.2 points per game allowed, 313.2 total yards per game, 216.4 passing yards per game

2015: 27.0 points per game allowed, 380.7 yards/game, 286.2 pass yards/game.

The trends point to a huge night for the Cards' offense.

Steve Smith vs. Patrick Peterson


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Did you know that Steve Smith Sr. has seven 100-yard games since his 35th birthday? The only player since 1960 with more is Jerry Rice. Yes, 89 can still be the best player on the field.

On the flip side, Peterson is having a fantastic season, allowing just nine catches on 25 targets and a 32.9 passer rating. Quarterbacks have thrown four interceptions when targeting Peterson (two snagged by Peterson himself).

This matchup likely will decide how potent the Ravens' offense is Monday night. If Peterson shuts down Smith, Joe Flacco will struggle to move the ball through the air throwing to lesser targets.

Smith and Peterson have faced each other twice before with vastly different outcomes*:

2011: Three receptions on four targets; 56 yards; one TD; zero INTs; 156.3 passer rating

2013: Two receptions on eight targets; 37 yards; zero TDs; two INTs; 6.8 passer rating

*Stats don't include those compiled by Smith with Peterson not in coverage.

Will John Brown make an impact?


Brown is officially active after battling a hamstring injury in practice this week, but the wideout was always confident he would play. Brown put up 10 catches for 196 yards last week against the Steelers. With Brown active, the Cards should have a field day through the air. Brown (497 receiving yards) and Larry Fitzgerald (583) have combined for 1,080 receiving yards (most among all WR duos). If Brown is hindered, expect Michael Floyd's targets to increase.

The galloping Chris Johnson


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CJ-rejuvenated-K has been one of the best stories of the season. Johnson is running with renewed purpose under Arians, isn't hesitating in holes and is galloping like it might be last carry ever. Heck, he's even blocking like his life depends on it. It's been a pure joy to watch. Johnson is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, his best since 2009, and entered the week fifth in rushing. When he is churning up yards on the ground the Cardinals' offense seems unstoppable.

I should also mention Johnson loves MNF. In seven games on Monday he has 640 rushing yards for 5.0 yards per carry.

Can the Ravens keep it close?


All the matchup notes signal we could have a Cardinals blowout on our hands. The Ravens are a shaky field-goal kicker away from being 0-fer on the season and have not looked good in any phase for long stretches. But, as the cliché goes, a dog -- or raven, as it were -- backed into a corner is often at its most dangerous. Will Harbaugh's team slink quietly into the desert night? Or stand and fight?

If the Ravens are to pull off the upset, Joe Flacco will have to play his best game of the season and avoid backbreaking mistakes against Tyrann Mathieu and a Cards defense that hawks the ball -- Arizona has 62 points off takeaways (second most in the NFL). If Flacco turns the ball over, it will turn into a quick rout.

Bonus: Enjoy watching Mathieu and Deone Bucannon fly around the field. They are about as fun a defensive-back pairing to watch each week as there is in the NFL.

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