With the Ravens aiming to win their third straight game and move into the bye week on a high note against New Orleans on Monday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Being without Mark Andrews and Gus Edwards isn’t ideal, but entering the weekend a game up — with a tiebreaker — on Cincinnati made it easier for the Ravens to be careful, especially for an NFC game that isn’t as consequential to playoff positioning. Let them heal up through the bye week.
2. Roquan Smith hadn’t missed a defensive snap all year for Chicago and expressed little concern about learning Baltimore’s system this week. Perhaps there’s a stray sub package or two in which we won’t see him, but I fully expect the standout inside linebacker to play a lot on Monday night.
3. Despite shutting out Las Vegas last week, the Saints had allowed 30 or more points in each of their previous three games and entered Week 9 ranked 27th in pressure rate and 30th in blitz rate. Of course, New Orleans not having to account for Andrews or Rashod Bateman helps.
4. Tyus Bowser is expected to make his season debut, which should provide a major boost at strong-side outside linebacker. However, how much he’ll play remains to be seen with Bowser being more reluctant to discuss his status than even John Harbaugh was this week.
5. Calais Campbell noted how Alvin Kamara scoring three touchdowns last week made sure the Ravens wouldn’t “fall asleep on him” after what had been a quiet start to 2022 for the five-time Pro Bowl running back. Smith and Patrick Queen will certainly have their hands full.
6. Linebacker play is always critical in the quest to contain Lamar Jackson, and New Orleans has the formidable pair of Demario Davis and Pete Werner. Entering Sunday, Pro Football Focus graded Davis first and Werner 22nd among qualified NFL off-ball linebackers. Davis has five sacks this season.
7. There’s no shortage of familiarity with Andy Dalton, who ranks a respectable 14th in ESPN’s QBR metric and has graded sixth among quarterbacks by PFF. The 35-year-old Dalton isn’t keeping opposing defenses up at night, but he’s had a decent season despite the Saints’ injuries at wide receiver.
8. The late-week injury to Demarcus Robinson could put an even brighter spotlight on DeSean Jackson, who’s poised to make his season debut. When you put yourself in the position the Ravens have at wide receiver, the hope is the 35-year-old can find the Fountain of Youth.
9. The red zone is always important, but New Orleans ranks second in the NFL with 29.5% of its plays inside the opponent’s 20 resulting in a touchdown, according to Sharp Football. Meanwhile, opponents are averaging a league-high 12.3 red-zone plays per game against the Ravens.
10. Turnovers and special teams are big reasons why the Ravens are 5-3 and the Saints 3-5. New Orleans is last in the league in turnover differential (minus-9) and 30th in special teams efficiency while Baltimore is fourth in turnover differential (plus-6) and first in special teams efficiency.
11. Though not quite as versatile as Patrick Mekari, James Hurst served in a similar capacity for Baltimore for years and has done a good job starting 23 of the Saints’ last 25 games at four different spots. The 2014 undrafted free agent from North Carolina has had a nice career.
12. Asked about the potential of Baltimore’s linebacker group, Jason Pierre-Paul said, “You can sit here and talk about it, but I’ve seen the best of the best still [not] make the playoffs or the Super Bowl.” It’s time for this Ravens defense to start putting it together for 60 minutes.