Round 24: Saints Can't Escape Steve Smith
Here's the lead from Times-Picayune down in New Orleans this morning:
"The New Orleans Saints can't escape Steve Smith [Sr.]," wrote Katherine Terrell. "Secretly, they've probably been wishing for years that he'd just go away."
But he's not going anywhere.
He's headed to the Big Easy on Monday Night Football for the entire nation to watch – get this – round No. 24 between him and the Saints.
"He'll be the first to get a retirement card from me whenever that happens," Saints Head Coach Sean Payton joked last season.
Of course Payton feels that way. Why wouldn't he? After all, Smith has enjoyed quite a history against Who Dat Nation.
Coming into the season, the 14-year veteran had produced more against the Saints than any other NFL team, per WNST's Luke Jones. That's 99 catches for 1,493 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 23 career games.
Quarterback Joe Flacco says he was unaware of Smith's history against the Saints until New Orleans media tipped him off yesterday in a conference call.
Reporter: "Steve Smith Sr. has been a huge nemesis for the Saints in the past."
Flacco: "Are you saying that he has played well against them?"
Flacco: "Well I am glad to hear that my man. I appreciate the heads up. … That is good news."
I suppose that means Flacco will be targeting Smith when the two face off against the 24th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. And it helps that Smith has played extremely well against his former division so far this season. He's notched 15 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns in three games against Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta.
The Ravens could use another one of those big NFC South performances from Smith as they try to hand New Orleans its third-straight loss at home.
It could be just the recipe to get Smith out of his recent quiet streak. He hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 6 and is averaging just 29.3 yards per game in the past three contests.
And Smith always gets up for a primetime game. It was on the national stage last year when he first uttered his now famous phrase, “Ice up, Son!”
Plus, he likes to make ex-girlfriends jealous.
"I get excited [for primetime]," he said. "You get real excited. Family members get to see you play. Ex-girlfriends that wish they didn't dump you are questioning themselves right now. It's fun. It's kind of true. That's why I'm not on Facebook."
Flacco Wants To Test Saints Secondary
Similar to the Ravens, the Saints have dealt with lots of injuries in the secondary and there has been a revolving door at safety.
Safety Rafael Bush was put on injured reserve this week, marking him the third safety to land on the list this season, following veteran three-time Pro Bowler Jairus Byrd and rookie Vinnie Sunseri. According to ESPN, there is no clear replacement to step in, but veteran Jamarca Sanford would seem to be the most likely candidate.
Flacco noted that a disadvantage for a change in the secondary is that there is no film to study on the replacement, but the Ravens quarterback plans to test whoever winds up back there.
"I think obviously anytime you play guys that haven't played a lot you have to go out there and test him and see what they are made of," Flacco said, per the Saints team website. "I think everybody's been there at some point where they haven't played a ton of games. You have a certain feeling in your mind. It's our job to go out there and test everybody and see how everybody is doing."
Tate Claimed Off Waivers, Blount Unclaimed
UPDATE: LeGarrett Blount has reportedly signed with the New England Patriots.
Following up on the biggest question from yesterday – whether the Ravens would sign recently released running backs Ben Tate or LeGarrette Blount – here's the latest news.
One day after being cut by the Cleveland Browns, Tate was claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Vikings, who are in need of help without Adrian Peterson.
So he's off the market.
But Blount is still there. It says something that all 32 teams passed on him.
"There have been stories about Blount being a problem from a character and work ethic perspective for years, so it’s no surprise that no team wanted him. He just isn't worth the headaches," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith.
"Still, Blount is a running back who has averaged 4.6 yards a carry over his five-year NFL career and also has experience as a kickoff returner, so it's possible that some team will give him a shot later in the season. If a team fighting for a playoff spot suffers an injury at running back late in the season Blount may get another chance. If not, Blount may have already burned his last chance."
Yanda, Campanaro Miss Practice
Since the Ravens play on Monday instead of Sunday this week, they aren't required to release an injury report until later today.
However, during the portion of yesterday's practice open to media, right guard Marshal Yanda (knee), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and tackle Jah Reid (broken hand) were not present, according to The Baltimore Sun.
It's not expected for Yanda to miss the game, but Campanaro is a question mark.
"The Ravens could use Campanaro as a complementary presence to starting wide receivers Steve Smith and Torrey Smith, but his health hasn't cooperated," wrote Aaron Wilson.
Despite his broken hand, Reid thinks he can still return to action this season and avoid landing on injured reserve.
"It's getting better, it's not that long of a recovery, only a few weeks," Reid told Wilson. "I lucked out. I got a good surgeon. Everything is in order. I should be ready to go pretty soon."
50,000 Simulations Says Ravens Will Make Playoffs
Will the 6-4 Ravens make the playoffs?
Well, ESPN's Football Outsiders conducted a simulation of the rest of the regular season 50,000 times, and the Ravens reached the playoffs 57.5 percent of those times. That's good enough to get the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
"So, you can say that's it's a little more than a gut feeling," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Per the simulations, the Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC North and the Kansas City Chiefs got the other wild-card spot.
The Ravens' playoff percentage was better than the following:
Miami Dolphins (49.8 percent)
Cincinnati Bengals (32.1 percent)
Houston Texans (16.4 percent)
Cleveland Browns (16.3 percent)
- Despite a recent slump, the Ravens offense is still much improved from last season. [The Baltimore Sun]
- What’s wrong with the New Orleans Saints? [ESPN]
- Safety Will Hill!(/team/roster/will-hill/968b3543-838a-4f08-8e29-d12495f6d258/ "Will Hill")'s emergence has come at the right time. "Since returning, Hill has recorded a plus-4.0 overall grade, eighth-best among all safeties in that period and conceded just 0.49 Yards per Cover Snap, and is once again grading positively against both run (plus-2.3) and pass (plus-1.4). It's vital for the Ravens defense that Hill continues to play at this level." [Pro Football Focus]