WEEK EIGHT-Saints vs. Ravens and Fearless Predictions

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By Scott Balot - SaintsReport Staff Writer
Posted On 10-25-2006



After being able to revel in a victory over the Eagles for two weeks, the Saints get back to business this Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens’ defense is still one of the NFL’s best, despite losing their last two games. Can the Saints keep the good times rolling after the bye week? Let’s take a look at the Saints/Ravens and the rest of WEEK EIGHT in the NFL.

BYE BYE

I have been asked several times over the past week if the bye week will help or hurt the Saints. Historically, the Saints are 7-8 after the bye week, which was implemented in the NFL in 1990. Under former coach Jim Haslett, the Saints were 3-3 after the bye week. What does history tell us about the Saints and the bye week? Looking at the past six seasons, when the Saints won after the bye week, they finished with eight or more wins in all three seasons. In the three seasons that the Saints lost after the bye week under Haslett, the Saints finished with seven wins or fewer. While I don’t think that the season’s success will hinge on what the Saints do this weekend, based on the past six seasons, it can be argued that how the Saints perform this weekend will be a good gauge as to how good the 2006 version of the boys in black and gold are. Good teams typically stay focused on the task at hand, and the bye week can be helpful in regards to letting injuries heal. Bad teams typically lose focus, which is usually a contributing factor as to why the team is bad. From what I’ve seen so far, Sean Payton and company shouldn’t be distracted coming out of the bye week this Sunday.

LEGITIMATE???

After week seven in the NFL, the Saints own the second best overall record in the NFC, and are finally gaining some recognition as a legitimate playoff contender after beating Philadelphia. If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Saints would be the second ranked team in the NFC, with the first ranked being Chicago.

The Saints are facing a tough road in front of them, particularly in the next five weeks. They host the Ravens this week, then go on the road against an up-and-coming Tampa Bay team. After Tampa, they travel to the home of the world champs, the Pittsburgh Steelers (kickoff has been moved to 3:15 PM CST). The Saints then come home to face another playoff team from last season, the Cincinnati Bengals. For Thanksgiving weekend, the Saints get to travel to Atlanta, who will be looking for some sweet revenge for the Monday Night embarrassment a month ago. We’ll revisit the Saints’ legitimacy after this five-week stretch, however, I’d like to go on record and state that if the Saints can go 3-2 in the next five weeks, they will make the playoffs.

WEEK EIGHT-Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are coming off a bye week as well, after losing their last two games. Quarterback Steve McNair was injured in the Ravens last game, but has been practicing this week and is scheduled to play Sunday. Running back Jamaal Lewis is still the Ravens’ leading rusher with 352 yards, but has scored only one touchdown this season. In fact, the Ravens only have two rushing touchdowns as a team this season. All-Pro Left Tackle Jonathan Ogden anchors the Ravens’ offensive line. The Ravens leading receiver is tight end Todd Heap. Wide receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton have caught a combined two touchdowns this season.

While the Ravens’ offense has struggled this season, the defense has been good enough for the Ravens to start 4-0 before losing their last two games. Linebacker Ray Lewis is still the spark plug that gets this defense going. Louisiana natives Ed Reed and Dawan Landry are arguably the best safety duo in the NFL. Cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle make the Ravens secondary a completely solid unit. Defense ends Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs have combined for 5 ½ sacks this season.

KEY MATCHUPS


Saints’ interior O-line vs. Ravens D-line-while there has been many pleasant surprises this year for the Saints, none have been bigger than the play of the offensive line. The Ravens have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL.

S Omar Stoutmire and Josh Bullocks vs. Todd Heap-the Ravens’ main target has been the tight end, and they have one of the best in the NFL in Heap. Reserve tight end Daniel Wilcox has also chipped in with two touchdowns. Stoutmire and Bullocks will have their hands full this weekend.

DE Will Smith vs. LT Jonathan Ogden-this will be a fun battle to watch, as Ogden is one of the premier tackles in the game, and Smith an up-and-coming pass rusher.

SCOTT’S FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

Line: Saints favored by 2

The Saints/Ravens game has the lowest over/under line in all of this week’s games at 36 ½. I agree that this will be a low scoring game that will ultimately be decided by special teams. Deuce McAllister rushes for 75 yards and a touchdown. Drew Brees throws for a modest 190 yards and a touchdown to Marques Colston. The Saints’ defense forces three turnovers, but it’s John Carney once again that saves the day. Scott says take the Saints and lay the points…Saints 20, Ravens 16.

Last Week: 4-8-1 (.333)
Season: 43-39-5 (.524)
Lock O’ The Week: 3-2 (.600)

LOCK O’ THE WEEK- St. Louis +9 over San Diego-Chargers are losing players on defense.

And now the rest of WEEK EIGHT of the NFL:

Ari + 3 ½ over GB-Denny doesn’t let them off the hook this week
Atl + 4 ½ over Cin-Bengals win a close one
Hou +3 over Ten-highlight of the day: Mario sacks Vince twice
Phi -6 over Jax-both of these teams have been slipping of late
KC – 5 ½ over Sea-injuries are starting to slow the Super Bowl runner-up
SF + 16 ½ over Chi-Bears go to 7-0, but 49ers surprise
TB +9 over NYG-Bucs are starting to roll
Ind +3 over Den-Colts playing the roll of the underdog
Cle -2 over NYJ-Carthon resigns, Browns’ O responds
Pit -9 over Oak-at least the Raiders won’t go 0-16
Car -5 ½ over Dal-doesn’t matter who the QB is with Cowboys O-line
Min + 2 ½ over NE-Vikes win in an upset, put the heat on Chi
 

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