As the Baltimore Ravens fight to get into the playoffs, the Super Bowl champions of two years ago have thrived against losing teams. They shouldn’t encounter a problem in Week 12 when they visit the 4-6 New Orleans Saints.
Baltimore enters their matchup on “Monday Night Football” just a half-game out of first place in the AFC North. The Ravens have stayed competitive in the NFL’s toughest division by taking advantage of the easiest part of their schedule, going 2-4 against teams with a winning record, but winning all four contests with opponents that are under .500.
New Orleans began the 2014 season as one of the favorites in the NFC, but they’ve struggled through 10 games. At two games under .500, they could be ripe for the picking for the Ravens.
Joe Flacco’s play has been the biggest decider in Baltimore’s wins and losses, and he should put up big numbers on Monday. The Saints rank 24th in passing yards allowed per game (255.2) and opponents’ passer rating (95.2), having recorded just six interceptions on the season. Flacco has dominated poor pass defenses, recording his only passer ratings of at least 100.0 against teams that rank 23rd through 29th in opponents’ passer rating.
Flacco has played like a Pro Bowl quarterback in Baltimore’s six wins, throwing 14 touchdown passes, three interceptions and posting a 112.6 passer rating. In the team’s four losses, his splits are much worse at 3/5/69.5. Last week, the Saints allowed Andy Dalton to complete 16 of 22 passes for three scores and no interceptions in their second straight loss.
The Saints’ pass defense is particularly banged up in Week 12. Cornerback Keenan Lewis was limited to 10 snaps last week and missed practice on Thursday with a knee injury. Starting free safety Rafael Bush broke his leg and will miss the remainder of the season.
Drew Brees might put up some impressive numbers, but he hasn’t been as dominant as he was in the last few seasons. Seven quarterbacks have thrown more touchdown passes and have a better passer rating in 2014.
New Orleans has the No.8 rushing offense in the NFL, but that part of the Saints’ game could struggle against Baltimore’s No.5 run defense. In their last five games, the Ravens have held opponents to an average of 77.6 yards per game on just 3.37 yards per carry.
The over/under is 50 points. New Orleans has totaled just 34 points in their last two home games.
The enormous home-field advantage that the combination of Brees and Sean Payton once gave the Saints has not been present this season. New Orleans has been made 3.5-point home favorites, but they’ve lost back-to-back contests at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Before the Saints' loss to the 49ers in Week 10, the quarterback and head coach hadn’t been beaten at home since the 2010 season.
PREDICTION: Baltimore over New Orleans, 30-27