With three games left in the regular season, this contest between the Saints and the Ravens (9-4) is deeply important for both teams. The Saints need this win in order to keep pace with the Falcons. They face Atlanta next Monday night and two consecutive victories would give New Orleans home field advantage for the NFC playoff bracket. Meanwhile, the Ravens must defeat the Saints to keep the pressure on the Steelers. If Pittsburgh loses just one game, while Baltimore attempts to win out, Charm City's own will earn the second-seed for the AFC with a bye and host the divisional round.
Despite the cold elements in Baltimore, the Saints will come marching in to M&T Bank Stadium expecting to sling the ball up- and-down the field. It will be a 1 p.m. kickoff and the wind will not blow hard enough to stop the Saints from spreading the field against the Ravens. They will try to take advantage of their defense and expose some weaknesses. Saints' running back Reggie Bush and safety Darren Sharper are back in football shape to add their veteran Super Bowl leadership.
But the Ravens won't lay down, especially when they are at home, as winners of the eight out of their last nine at M&T Bank.
Baltimore has the weapons to defuse the Saints high-powered offense. But will they be able to execute against a decent defense? Although the Ravens may occasionally play down to their competition, this should be one of the better games this week. Baltimore leads the all-time series at 3-1. M&T Bank Stadium will be loaded with Pro Bowl players on Sunday and since the Saints are getting healthy and the Ravens are capable to playing strong when needed, a meeting on Feb. 6 at Cowboy Stadium may still be in their future.
Who: New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
TV Coverage: FOX
When: Sunday, Dec. 19, 1 p.m., ET
Players to Watch: The Ravens running game. The Ravens secondary continues to struggle late in games and has to help keep their defense off the field from a possible late comeback by the Saints. The Ravens' three-headed monster in backs Ray Rice, Willie McGahee and Le'Ron McClain must control the ground game in order to keep Drew Brees off the field.
Final Score: Ravens 30 Saints 24