Reality: The Ravens have beaten 3 NFC South teams by a combined 115-34.
Perception: They have completed dominated a division that many thought would be a real good one. Most thought the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers would all be fighting for playoffs spots. But not so, as the first place Falcons are just 4-6. The Ravens have beaten the NFC South by an average margin of 27 points.
Reality: Saints quarterback Drew Brees has beaten every team in the NFL… except the Baltimore Ravens.
Perception: The Ravens beat the Saints in 2003, 2006, and in 2010, but those games don’t really mean a thing in 2014. These teams are completely different than those teams were. The Ravens secondary has struggled this season with injuries and giving up the big plays. Brees throws the ball around as well as any QB in the NFL.
Brett Favre and Peyton Manning are the only two quarterbacks in NFL history who have beaten every team in the league.
Brees is having another great season and his ability to throw the ball around the field should give the Ravens secondary fits. One thing that will help the Ravens is that Saints wide receiver Brandon Cooks was just placed on injured reserve and will not only miss this game but the rest of the season.
Reality: The Ravens will need to keep Brees and the Saints offense off the field.
Perception: If the Ravens want to be successful Monday night, they will need to keep the Saints offense on the sideline for as long as possible. That means the Ravens will need to convert on 3rd downs and they will need to move the ball downfield. The best way to do that is to run the ball down the Saints throat.
Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com showed how successful the Ravens have been running the ball late in the season:
Justin Forsett leads the Ravens ground game which ranks 10th in the NFL with 124.1 yards per game. The Saints run defense ranks 19th, allowing 114.7 yards per game on the ground.
The Ravens need to let the ground game dictate the pace of play and if they stick with it, they should be successful.
If they are not, they need to rely on Steve Smith Sr. to help move the chains on offense. Smith Sr. has 10 touchdowns in 23 games against the Saints during his career… that’s the most of any active receiver in the NFL against the Saints.
Reality: The Ravens need to win to keep pace in a very congested AFC Playoff picture.
Perception: At 6-4, the Ravens sit in 9th place in the AFC. But, being just 1 game behind seven of the eight teams in front of them, they could go all the way up to the #2 Seed. So they are not out of it at all, but at this point they need to win every game.
I think the Ravens run the ball down the Saints throat (or at least they should) and the defense comes up with 2 turnovers in a Ravens victory, 34-27.