It’s a new Ravens team every week.
Which is why it’s no surprise that the same week Baltimore expects to get Roquan Smith, Tyus Bowser, Desean Jackson, and possibly David Ojabo on the field for the first time this season, they’ll also be without Rashod Bateman, and probably Mark Andrews and Gus Edwards. Most positions have been a revolving door for the Ravens this season but fortunately, aside from Bateman, most inured starters will be back for them at some point in the year. Until then, the focus is on surviving rather than thriving.
If Andrews is kept out, Isaiah Likely will once again have to shoulder the load as the Ravens’ primary receiving tight end. He showed out against Tampa Bay last Thursday night, finally proving why he had everyone gushing in the preseason. He and all the other pass catchers will have to step up because Baltimore’s ground game faces a Saints defense that’s allowing the fewest yards per carry in the league. It’ll be strength against strength in the trenches as Baltimore’s offensive line has been playing very well as of late. There’s now no doubt in my mind that Tyler Linderbaum is our center of the future, which takes some of the sting out of how badly we could use Hollywood right now.
The Saints are an aggressive defense that challenges opposing receivers to get free from man coverage. Saints rookie cornerback Alontae Taylor looked phenomenal last week showcasing his ability to shadow receivers in coverage. Maybe Desean Jackson has a veteran trick or two if he’s matched up with the rookie, but don’t be surprised if none of the Ravens’ receivers can shake Taylor. This is Lamar’s first time starting against the Saints, a factor that can’t be overstated. Jackson’s athleticism can’t be simulated in practice and defenders tend to underestimate just how quick he really is.
That’s why there’s a chance New Orleans’ run defense doesn’t give Baltimore the same trouble they’ve given every other team so far. The Raven’s rushing offense is unique and an absolute nightmare for second-level defenders to try and decipher who has the ball when 900 pounds of pulling linemen are flashing in front of them. Because of this, I foresee a seam-ripping, 40+- yard rushing touchdown for Lamar.
These Saints are sneaky
On the opposite sideline, Andy Dalton is a quarterback less likely to break away for a long touchdown run. The Ravens know all about the red rifle from his time in Cincinnati. The three-time Pro-Bowler and one of four players to have ever made me cry, Dalton has been playing decent football this year. He’s got a solid O-line in front of him and an elite running back in Alvin Kamara behind him. If there’s a player who could single-handedly ruin this game for Baltimore, it’s Kamara.
Linebacker Roquan Smith has spent just enough time in Baltimore to visit the aquarium before he has to go out and try to tackle one of the league’s slipperiest backs, tough business. Smith and Queen are going to be an electric duo. Both possess elite range and athleticism, but Smith’s taking on the role of Mike linebacker means Queen will be able to play his more natural position of Will backer. Simplifying the game for Queen, and letting him play more see-ball-get-ball with his freakish explosiveness might finally unlock consistent play from him.
Despite all of their injuries, the Saints’ offense is scoring the 8th most points per game in the league. They’ve been competitive in all of their games and are better than their 3-5 record suggests. A shutout win at home against the Raiders last week should have the Superdome jumping in Primetime.
Baltimore’s long week should have them fresh and hungry. The Ravens and Saints share some similarities as they’re both physical teams that play aggressive defense with an offense that would love to beat you running the ball and controlling the clock. That being said, Baltimore has proven to me that they can win in multiple ways, whereas the Saints need this game to go a certain way to pull it out.
Prediction: Ravens 30, Saints 22
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