The New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens match-up in one of the NFL’s biggest interconference match-ups this season. The Saints are on a roll, but the Ravens are trying to keep up with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
The early spread on this game is Ravens (-2.5). Here are six of the key aspects of the game and what to watch out for when betting. Stats from NFL.com and ESPN. All lines from Cooper’s Picks.
The Ravens are coming off an overtime victory against the Houston Texans on Monday Night. Therefore, the Saints have had one more day to prepare for this match-up, which could be critical against a solid out-of-conference foe and with a coach of Sean Payton’s stature.
#2 Ravens Defense Shredded by Texans Offense
The Ravens defense surrendered nearly 500 yards of offense against the Texans. Schuab had about 400 yards passing, although he was only 31/62 with two interceptions. The Ravens were up 28-7 in the third quarter before the Texans lost 34-28 in overtime.
#3 Third Down Offense
The Saints have the NFL’s best third down offense at 50%. The Ravens are tied for twelfth at 40%. An interesting note is that the Saints lost to the Cardinals earlier this season, who have the NFL’s worst third down conversion rate (26%).
Drew Brees has been prone to interceptions in 2010. He’s thrown interceptions in every game since Week 4, and his 18 interceptions make the Saints the fourth worst team in interceptions.
#5 Passing Defense
The Ravens have the fifth best opposing QB rating in the NFL as they hold QBs to 77.0 QB rating. They’ve also held opponents to 6.4 yards per completion, third lowest in the league. They have looked vulnerable at times, like against the Houston Texans in the second half.
Fabian Washington and Todd Heap are currently questionable as of 12/14. These are important injuries that could affect the Raven’s ability to attack the Saints linebackers and their ability to stop Drew Brees. The Ravens already have two defensive backs on IR, including Domonique Foxworth.
The Saints are getting healthier as the season progresses, and their recent play shows it. Pierre Thomas returned last week and gives the Saints their running back duo of Thomas and Reggie Bush.
Difficult game here. The Ravens have home field advantage, but the Saints have Drew Brees and a longer week to prepare and recover from injuries. I’m hesitant to pick against an offense that’s averaging 50% on third down that’s starting to find its groove.
Could go either way. Since I feel it’ll be a close game, I have to go with Drew Brees (+2.5) over Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter, especially with an extra day of preparation in an out-of-conference match-up.
Against the Spread: New Orleans Saints (+2.5)
Straight: New Orleans Saints
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Cooper’s Picks, December 14, 2010.
Stats NFL.com, December 14, 2010.
Injury Reports, Covers.com. December 14, 2010.
Texans and Ravens ESPN Box Score. December 14, 2010.