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Week 15 NFL Preview & Capsules: Ravens v. Saints


PLAYOFF RACES HEAT UP AS 23 TEAMS VIE FOR POSTSEASON
 
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the suspense continues to build as teams make their final playoff push.
 
So far, only one spot has been clinched as the New England Patriots have locked up a berth in the postseason. 
 
"There’s a long way to go," says Patriots quarterback TOM BRADY.  "I don’t think anything’s really been accomplished yet.  We’re still working hard."
 
That leaves 11 spots available and there are still 23 teams in contention for a playoff berth. 
 
"From here on out, every game is huge," says quarterback JAY CUTLER of the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears.  "We’re in that final stretch when every game is important to whether or not you’re making the playoffs." 
 
For the first time since realignment in 2002, seven of the eight divisions have two teams either in or within one game of first place through the first 14 weeks of the season. 
 
"Everything in this league is about December and January," says head coach JOHN HARBAUGH of the Baltimore Ravens, who are one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.  "You want to be relevant in December and January.  You want to make it important."  Some of the key games this week:


            NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-3) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-4) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)                
 
The defending Super Bowl champions will head to Baltimore to face the 9-4 Ravens.  The Saints are 5-1 on the road and the Ravens are 5-1 at home. 
 
"We have a lot of respect for Baltimore," says New Orleans head coach SEAN PAYTON.  "The Ravens are one of those teams that has been an elite AFC team.  They’re extremely physical on defense.  Offensively, they have the ability to run and throw.  It’s a real good challenge for us." 
 
The Saints defeated St. Louis 31-13 last week behind quarterback DREW BREES’ three touchdown passes.  Since joining New Orleans in 2006, Brees has passed for 22,153 yards and 150 touchdowns and is the first QB in NFL history to pass for at least 20,000 yards and 150 touchdowns in the first five seasons with a new team. 
 
"They’re the defending champs," says Baltimore linebacker RAY LEWIS about the Saints.  "But we’ll be waiting for them."
 
On Monday night, the Ravens won an overtime thriller in Houston when cornerback JOSH WILSON returned an interception 12 yards for the game-winning touchdown.  It marked the 18th regular-season game-winning interception-return touchdown in overtime and the first since 2005 when the Bears’ CHARLES TILLMAN accomplished the feat. 
 
"Our guys found a way to win," says Ravens head coach JOHN HARBAUGH.  "At this time in the season, you are what you are and you’ve got to find a way to win these games." 

(Click on the 'Jump' to see all the stats of the game 'capsule' between the Ravens and Saints)

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-3) AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-4)

SERIES

SAINTS

RAVENS

SERIES LEADER

 

3-1

STREAKS

 

3-1

COACHES VS. OPP.

Payton: 0-1

Harbaugh: 0-0

LAST WEEK

W 31-13 vs. Rams

W 34-28 at Texans (OT)

LAST GAME

10/29/06: Ravens 35 at Saints 22.  Baltimore QB Steve McNair passes for 2 TDs & runs for another.  Ravens get 2 12-yard INT-TDs from CB Ronnie Prude & S Dawan Landry.

LAST GAME AT SITE

12/8/02: Saints 37, Ravens 25.  New Orleans RB Deuce McAllister rushes for 127 yards & 3 TDs & K John Carney connects on 3 FGs.

BROADCAST

FOX (1:00 PM ET): Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Chris Myers (Field reporter).  Westwood One Radio: Howard David, Tony Boselli.  SIRIUS: 121 (NO), 152 (Bal.).  XM: 107 (Bal.). 

STATS

PASSING

Brees: 362-525-3,855 (1C)-28 (1C)-18-93.6

Flacco: 270-431-3,223-21-8-94.0

RUSHING

Ivory (R): 130-683-5.3-5

Rice: 231-898-3.9-3

RECEIVING

Colston: 76 (2C)-921-12.1-7

Boldin: 59-811-13.7-7

OFFENSE

386.0 (3L)

334.8

TAKE/GIVE

-4

0

DEFENSE

308.6 (2C)

319.8

SACKS

Ellis: 5

Suggs: 10 (T3C)

INTs

Greer, Jenkins: 2

E. Reed: 4

PUNTING

Morstead: 47.2 (2C)

Koch: 43.4

KICKING

Hartley: 82 (34/34 PAT; 16/21 FG)

Cundiff: 90 (33/33 PAT; 19/22 FG)

NOTES

SAINTS:  QB DREW BREES needs 145 yards for 5th consecutive 4,000-yard season & would join PEYTON MANNING as only QBs with 5+ 4,000-yard seasons in row.  Is 1st QB with 20,000+ pass yards (22,153) & 150 TDs (150) in 1st 5 years with new club.  In last game vs. Bal., passed for 383 yards & 3 TDs…RB CHRISTOPHER IVORY leads NFL rookies with 683 rush yards.  RB REGGIE BUSH has 9 TDs (6 rush, 3 rec.) in past 9 vs. AFC.  RB PIERRE THOMAS has 618 scrimmage yards (103 per game) & 6 TDs (4 rush, 2 rec.) in past 6 vs. AFC (incl. SB)…In only meeting, WR MARQUES COLSTON had 6 catches for 163 yards (27.2 avg.) & 2 TDs.  Aims for 6th in row vs. AFC with TD catch.  Had 2 TDs last week.  WR LANCE MOORE had TD in Week 14…S MALCOLM JENKINS had 2 INTs, incl. 96-yard TD, vs. Rams.  S DARREN SHARPER aims for 3rd in row vs. Bal. with INT.  LB JONATHAN VILMA has 26 tackles (13 per game) in past 2 meetings.  Aims for 3rd in row with sack, as does S ROMAN HARPERDE WILL SMITH has 6.5 sacks in past 8 vs. AFC…RAVENS:  Have won 8 of past 9 at home…At home in ’10, QB JOE FLACCO has 11 TDs vs. 1 INT & 107.1 passer rating.  Flacco (9,807) needs 193 passing yards to become 1st QB in Ravens history to reach 10,000 career…With 8 catches last week, RB RAY RICE (168) surpassed JAMAL LEWIS (160) for most career rec. by Ravens RB…With 6 rec. vs. Hou., WR DERRICK MASON (53) became 7th player in NFL history w/ 50+ rec. in 11 consecutive seasons.  Has 5 TD catches in past 6.  In 2 career games vs. NO, TE TODD HEAP has 8 catches for 134 yards (16.8 avg.) w/ 1 TD...In last meeting, defense had 4 INTs, incl. 2 INT-TDs…LB TERRELL SUGGS (10) needs 2.5 sacks to surpass career-high 12 in ’03 rookie season.  LB RAY LEWIS has 2 INTs in 3 career games vs. Saints.  S DAWAN LANDRY had career-high 2 INTs, incl. 1st career INT-TD (12 yards), in last meeting.

The opinions posted here are those of the administrator of this blog and his loyal readers. They are in no way official comments from the team, and should not be misconstued as such, even though he thinks he could do just as well or even a better job!

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