New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens: Road Warriors Meet Tough Hosts

Randy SavoieAnalyst IIDecember 18, 2010

Reggie Bush is just another weapon in Drew Brees' arsenal as the Saints offense is healthy again.
Reggie Bush is just another weapon in Drew Brees' arsenal as the Saints offense is healthy again.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Irresistible force meets immovable object.

That might describe Sunday's Ravens/Saints game. The Baltimore Ravens are 5-1 this year at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and 11-3 over the past two years at home. The defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints went 7-1 on the road en route to a Lombardi Trophy in 2009 and are 5-1 on the road this season.

Something's gotta give.

When the dust settles and the smoke of battle clears late Sunday, it will probably have been decided by that old cliche' "in the trenches."

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis may not be the terror he once was back in the days when sportswriters were writing all those "speed kills" articles about him, but he's still better than most. A high football IQ has compensated for what Father Time has stolen from Lewis in the speed department.

"You look at it and say, 'This guy is 12 years younger.' I'm saying my body is 12 years more developed," Lewis told the Baltimore Sun recently. "I'm running and hitting these little kids, and I know they're not going to deal with 60 minutes of this."

After 15 years in the league, Lewis is still scaring the bejesus out of QBs and running backs but he won't be able to do that against the Saints' multi-dimensional offensive attack if the offensive line is winning the battle in the trenches—which the Saints O-line has been doing lately.

The Saints offense is rounding into 2009 form having scored 30-plus in five straight games. New Orleans ranks No. 3 in total offense, averaging 386 yards a game. And Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are both finally back in the fold.

"We'd like to keep that going. It was a matter of getting into a rhythm lately," Drew Brees told The Sports Network this week. "We had those injuries early on. We're just trying to get guys in and for everybody to find their role. When you look at our tight end group and our four wide receivers and our stable of running backs, we can just do a lot with our personnel groupings."

While the Saints offense draws most of the media attention, the New Orleans defense is quietly sitting at No. 6 overall in the NFL.

Unlike years past when the Saints lacked talent in the secondary, this defensive backfield is loaded with playmakers like Malcolm Jenkins, Darren Sharper, Tracey Porter, Jabari Greer and Roman Harper.

While Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is adept at making all the throws to one the league's best groups of wideouts, he must stay cognizant of a Saints secondary's ability to convert an errant pass into a pick-six with relative ease.

A loss would probably mean the end to New Orleans' hopes of winning the NFC South as Atlanta has a one-game division lead and goes against the mediocre Seattle Seahawks and their woeful defense this weekend.

Here's how The Sports Network sees it: "Both the Saints and Ravens need a victory this week to avoid falling behind in their respective division races with the regular season winding down. Both should be highly motivated and Baltimore will get a slight boost from playing at home. However, the Ravens have already struggled against one talented pass attack and now must deal with the rolling Saints. Like Schaub was last week, Brees might just be too much for the Ravens defense to handle."

The Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saints 27, Ravens 20

Randy's Predicted Outcome: Saints 27, Ravens 24