The 10-3 Saints roll into Charm City today for a matchup with the 9-4 Ravens. This is a big game for both teams, as New Orleans is trying to overtake the Falcons for the NFC South lead, while the Ravens are looking to hold out hope of an AFC North title and cement their playoff positioning.
Here are three keys to the Ravens earning a win over a hot Saints team this afternoon:
Win the T.O.P. battle
The Ravens allowed the Texans to dominate time of possession in the second half on Monday night, and things almost got very ugly as a result. If Baltimore hopes to derail the high-speed train that is the Saints offense, they'll have to do a better job controlling the clock. Offensively, Joe Flacco and company need to avoid three-and-outs and try and maintain long, time-consuming drives. That can be done if they run the ball effectively. Defensively, the Ravens need to be strong on third downs and get off the field. If they let Drew Brees run wild, it could be a very long day.
Brees might seem invincible and impossible to rattle, but it can be done. In the Saints' 10 wins, Brees has 21 touchdown passes and nine INTs. In their three losses, on the other hand, the Super Bowl MVP threw seven touchdown passes and nine interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. With the exception of the second half against Houston, in which defensive coordinator Greg Mattison called mostly three-man rushes against the Texans' pass-dominated attack, the Ravens' pass rush has been solid lately. If Terrell Suggs and the big guys up front can get pressure on Brees, he's shown that he can be forced into some poor decisions.
Exploit the special teams edge
Billy Cundiff has crushed his kickoffs all year, Sam Koch has been pinning teams inside their own 20 since Week 1, and now, finally, the Ravens' kick and punt return units are starting to deliver as well. David Reed had a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week, and Lardarius Webb has a punt return of at least 15 yards in each of the Ravens' last three games. Those two could have big days again tomorrow, as the Saints rank 28th in the NFL on punt coverage and 19th on kickoff coverage.