The Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints have nearly identical records and both sit in second place in their respective divisions, a game behind the division leaders. They both could greatly prefer to win their divisions and get that first round Bye, but at the same time, both seem on the verge of making the post season regardless of where they finish.
However, today's match-up will go a long way in determining how far they might go, as beating tough, winning teams is what will be required at the next level of play once the regular season is finished. Regardless of who wins, both teams stand to make the playoffs, but the winner will still be within reach of the division title while the loser will have to probably win their final two games to stay ahead of the pack for the Wild Card.
(Join us for a gametime 'Open Thread' at noon and click on the 'Jump' to see my prediction)
The Ravens hold the home field advantage today and not just that, but the elements might play a role in today's game, as the Saints are pretty much used to playing in comfortable temperatures and might be more affected by the cold weather than the Ravens. While snow was originally in the forecast, now it just appears that it will be very cold at gametime, and hopefully, that will make a difference as the game progresses into twilight and the temperatures plummet.
New Orleans has not played a team with a winning record since the beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at home in week 8 and are only 2-1 versus winning teams in 2010. Meanwhile the Ravens may only be 4-3 against teams above .500, but at least they have played seven games against the better teams in the league, over twice as many as the Saints. While the Saints have won six in a row, they haven't faced this type of competition on the road virtually all season, and combined with the weather, should give the Ravens the advantage they will need to defeat a team that is beginning to look like the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Most people think that the Saints will roll over the Ravens due to Baltimore's inability to stop teams in the fourth quarter as well as their offense turning stagnant in the game's final 30 minutes, which has been their trend in 2010. At the same time, the Ravens have seemed to play up or down to their level of competition and if New Orleans thinks they can just wait until the last fifteen minutes to put the game away, they might very well be surprised come late Sunday afternoon.
As the NFL has showed us all year, these trends never seem to work out the way they seem to expect which could very well mean that if the Cleveland Browns can go into New Orleans and crush the Saints, then the Ravens can protect their house here in Baltimore and disappoint a lot of fans who not only want to see the Saints win, but the Ravens lose as well. Baltimore's players will be definitely up for this game, as both local and national media are predicting a Saints victory and nothing is more dangerous than an angry Ravens team with something to prove. With Ray Lewis leading the chant, this Ravens team will be extremely dangerous and ready to remind the Saints why they have had a solid reputation as one of the more physical teams in the league.
I like the Ravens at home in this weather and think that if they can put points on the board early, they will stick with the Saints and know they will have to keep pushing the ball down their throats in order to prevent another late game collapse. As the game goes down to the ire, the weather will turn and the Ravens chance to dominate a frozen Saints team should increase greatly. Expect both Head Coach John Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron to make a significant effort to quiet the swell of discontent among the fans on the lack of offense and playcalling in critical points in the recent schedule.
Just when you were ready to write the Ravens off from being not only a playoff team but a Super Bowl contender due to their inbility to beat the tougher teams with elite quarterbacks, the Ravens shock the football world, disappoint the Steeler and Jets fans, and prove to their faithful that yes, they "are who they are!"
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