One of the marquee games on the Week 7 NFL schedule is an inter-conference battle between the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints. Kickoff is set for 4:05 EST on Sunday, October 21, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Fans in large sections of the country will be able to watch the game on Fox.
Oddsmakers list the Ravens as 2-point favorites at home. That line has come down slightly after the Ravens opened the week favored by 2.5 points. The over/under for the game is set at 50 points. Click here to see a full list of this week’s NFL odds.
The Ravens are fresh off a dominating defensive effort last week against the Titans. Not only did the Baltimore defense pitch a shutout against Tennessee, but they also collected 11 sacks. That win makes the Ravens 4-2 on the season, bringing them into a tie with the Bengals atop the AFC North, which has become one of the most competitive divisions in football.
John Harbaugh’s team is finally returning home this week after playing four of their last five games on the road. Baltimore’s schedule over the next month isn’t exactly easy, as the Ravens will play their next four games against teams that currently have winning records. However, the Ravens will be glad to be home for three of those four games, including this week’s showdown with the Saints.
New Orleans, meanwhile, is coming off a bye week that followed a four-game winning streak. The Saints stumbled early in the season, which has become a tradition under Sean Payton. But they have survived those early season difficulties and were one of the best teams in the NFL right before their bye. Over their last two games, the Saints have outscored their opponents 76-37.
At 4-1, the Saints are alone atop the NFC South standings. However, with their bye week behind them, they will play eight of their final 11 games against teams that currently have a winning record. We’re going to find out over the next few weeks whether or not the Saints are truly one of the elite teams in the NFL.
In a game between the best offense in the NFL and the best defense in the NFL, I’m going to take my chances with the better defensive team, especially when they’re at home. This should be a fascinating game to watch in a lot of areas. But I think the Ravens and their defense will find a way to pull it out and win by a field goal.
Obviously, the Saints are a juggernaut offensively. Despite all the attention the Chiefs and Rams are getting, the Saints are averaging the most points per game in the NFL. The most amazing part is that Drew Brees hasn’t even thrown an interception over the first five games. Considering that he’s also completing 78% of his passes and has thrown 11 touchdown passes makes it all the more impressive. With Mark Ingram officially back from suspension, the New Orleans offense also has a strong rushing attack to complement Brees and the passing game.
All of that is great, but we have to keep in mind that New Orleans has done a lot of damage against teams like the Giants, Falcons, and Bucs, three teams that are quite dreadful defensively. The Saints were also kept under wraps against a solid Cleveland defense, so we know that it’s at least possible to hold New Orleans to a reasonable point total.
It’s also safe to say that the Saints haven’t faced a defense as good as the one the Ravens have. If you take away one bad Thursday night in Cincinnati back in Week 2, the Baltimore defense is giving up less than nine points per game. One could argue that the Pittsburgh offense the Ravens faced in Week 4 is nearly as lethal as the Saints, and yet, Baltimore’s defense was able to hold the Steelers to just 14 points, so they’ve proven they can contain good offensive teams.
If the Saints are going to win this game, they made need a little help from their own defense. To be fair, New Orleans has been better on that side of the ball the past couple of weeks. But those games were against the Giants and Redskins, two teams with obvious offensive flaws. We should pump the brakes on thinking the Saints have recaptured the excellent form their defense had last season.
Obviously, the Baltimore offense isn’t a juggernaut by any stretch. The Ravens have lacked consistency in their running game all season, averaging just under 100 yards per game. However, the Ravens have eight rushing touchdowns, which is near the top of the league. Baltimore’s running game is at least functional and effective in the red zone. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco remains a viable quarterback who can still hit the deep ball occasionally and has done a great job of spreading the ball around to multiple receivers.
Of course, the Ravens aren’t going to win a shootout against the Saints. But I think the Baltimore defense will slow down the Saints enough to give Flacco and company a chance to win the game. I’m still not sold on the New Orleans defense, which means the Ravens are the more balanced team in this game. With the spread less than a field goal, I’ll take my chances with the Ravens being able to win and cover at home.