Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
The most eye-popping result of week 1 was the Ravens’ 59-10 win in Miami and Lamar Jackson’s near perfect day as a passer. It came against a Dolphins team with little talent and seemingly little motivation, but Jackson faced a weak schedule of defenses in his starts last season (5 of 8 starts came against teams that finished 24th or worse in first down rate allowed) and never came close to putting up the passing production he put up last week, so he definitely seems improved as a passer from year one to year two. The question of how much he’s improved may not be answered until he faces tougher competition, but week 1 was definitely encouraging for his long-term prospects.
Jackson isn’t really getting that tougher competition this week, with the Cardinals coming to Baltimore. Unlike the Dolphins, the Cardinals should be a somewhat competitive team this season, but they’re still one of the worst teams in the league and they’re missing their two starting cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford with suspension and injury respectively, so their defense isn’t close to full strength.
That being said, I still think this line is way too high at Baltimore -13. Even if Jackson is an improved passer, this team still has significant concerns, especially on defense. Having already lost five defensive starters in free agency, the Ravens are now without cornerbacks Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith as well. Adding Earl Thomas in free agency obviously helps, but he can’t mask their other losses by himself. What was a dominant defense last season could easily be middle of the pack this season, at least against teams other than the Dolphins. If Jackson can perform like he did last week every week, that will mask their losses on defense, but he has yet to show consistency. The Ravens could also overlook the Cardinals a little bit, with a trip to Kansas City on deck. Favorites of 10+ are 63-83 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs. I have this line calculated at Baltimore -7, so we’re getting significant line value with the visitors at +13. This is my Pick of the Week.
Baltimore Ravens 27 Arizona Cardinals 20
Pick against the spread: Arizona +13
Confidence: Pick of the Week