Obviously, the Arizona Cardinals are a substandard NFL franchise that can't distract a transient, desert-dwelling community to attend football games with much regularity. Still, this is a professional football team. The Ravens coaching staff has spent a portion of this week doing more than installing its game plan. The coaches have also worked at selling the legitimacy of the Cardinals to their players to avoid a letdown. There have been no outward signs of Baltimore (2-2) taking Arizona (1-4) lightly despite its poor statistics and extensive collection of injuries. The Ravens have to contend with feisty former starting quarterback Jeff Blake, jokingly referred to as 'Steamin' Willie Beamon' by Baltimore safety Gary Baxter. Baltimore knows that Blake's arm strength and mobility aren't a laughing matter. They also know that he's a serious competitor on the field and at the negotiating table. It's critical that the Ravens generate a pass rush and not allow him to gain momentum. Paying attention to the task at hand and not overlooking the Cardinals is imperative.
2. Establish the run.
Besides sticking with their top offensive formula of handing the football to league leader Jamal Lewis, the Ravens want to get ahead and stay ahead. Plus, they don't want to give Blake additional chances to make plays downfield. It's critical that Baltimore distribute some carries to backup Chester Taylor. Ravens coach Brian Billick indicated that is part of this week's game plan, so sticking with that approach should pay dividends.
3. Work the intermediate patterns.
Too often, rookie quarterback Kyle Boller's options have been limited to either dumping it off short or launching a low-percentage bomb to tight end Todd Heap. The Ravens need to include receivers Travis Taylor and Frank Sanders with greater frequency. This will aid Boller's development and make the offense less one-dimensional. The play-action pass would be respected since Lewis is such a threat. The middle of the field needs to be utilized more often by offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh.
4. Account for rookie receiver Anquan Boldin.
This was a gem of a second-round pick from Florida State. The NFL offensive rookie of the month already has 33 receptions for 497 yards, which dwarfs the production of the Ravens' wideouts. Baltimore has to stick with him, particularly in light of Arizona's injury situation at receiver.
5. Contain the run.
The point has been made in league circles that Arizona's running game was actually upgraded by Emmitt Smith's injury. Marcel Shipp is a competent back who gained over 1,200 all-purpose yards last season in six starts. He's known as a shifty runner adept at cutting back against the grain. Baltimore has to remain disciplined in its pursuit angles. -- Aaron Wilson