Majority of Pundits Predict Baltimore to Win Third Straight
For the first time this season, the Ravens (5-3) are on a winning streak. In fact, their two-game winning streak marks their first streak of any type in 2022.
Can they make it three in a row by defeating the New Orleans Saints under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football" (assuming the lights actually stay on at the Caesars Superdome)?
The Saints (3-5) are coming off an impressive 24-0 win over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8, but the majority of pundits we looked at (40 of 48) like the Ravens' chances.
If the Ravens do win their third straight, they'll have to do it without All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews (knee, shoulder), who has been ruled out, and wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who is undergoing season-ending foot surgery. Additionally, running back Gus Edwards (hamstring) is doubtful to play.
Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:
Special teams will propel the Ravens to victory.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal: "It's too early to say the Saints' defense is back, but the offense is efficient enough and the Superdome will be rocking. I only give the Ravens a slight edge because they might have the best special teams in football, while the Saints might have the worst."
Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith: "The Saints made a statement with their blowout of the Raiders last week, and I think they'll be competitive with the Ravens. But ultimately I think the Ravens' enormous special teams advantage will make the difference in this game."
The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia: "The Saints flat-out dominated the Raiders last week. Alvin Kamara had 27 touches for 158 yards. The Ravens don't have one thing they can hang their hat on, and I could see a low-scoring game. But Baltimore can win in different ways and has a big edge on special teams. I like them to take care of business here."
The Ravens' acquisition of inside linebacker Roquan Smith will pay immediate dividends.
Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler: "There couldn't be a better game to introduce Roquan Smith to the defense. Smith leads the league in tackles, and this could be another game where he racks up 10-12. Kamara is second on the team in receptions, and Juwan Johnson is no slouch at tight end. The biggest thing Smith gives this defense is a linebacker who can cover, and as such could be used to neutralize the quick passing game over the middle of the field. He's one of the few linebackers who is athletic enough to keep up with Kamara."
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: "The Ravens have boosted their pass rush with Roquan Smith and have played much-improved overall defense of late with a different coverage vs. pressure philosophy. That's bad news for [Saints quarterback] Andy Dalton, who tends to have plenty of nightmares in prime-time games."
This time, Dalton will shine in prime time.
CBS Sports’ John Breech: "CAN DALTON ACTUALLY DELIVER IN PRIME TIME? On one hand, he has 11 years of history that says no. As the resident Bengals homer here at CBS Sports, I should point out that I have personally suffered through 21 of Dalton's prime-time starts since his rookie year in 2011 and when he plays, it usually ends up being a good thing for the other team. That being said, the last time Dalton won a prime-time game, it came against the Ravens and I think he can lead the Saints to an upset here."
The Ravens will pick up where they left off in the second half against the Buccaneers.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio: "I just think the Ravens are finding a groove; they looked great against the Buccaneers. And I just feel like the Saints are enough of an inconsistent team this year [that] I could see them following a shutout win with a not-great showing the following week as they start to get their balance and then lose their wobble."
Based on the Saints defense's lack of success against dual-threat quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson could have a big game running the ball.
The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "Jackson remains the weapon no defense can account for, leading the team with 553 rushing yards on 7.4 yards per carry. … The Saints aren't as good against the run as against the pass, but they did hold the Raiders and Josh Jacobs to 38 rushing yards. They have not played as well against teams with running threats at quarterback, including the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals."
NBC Sports' Chris Simms: "The Saints, two years in a row, against Jalen Hurts, … and some of those Lamar Jackson-type run plays, they haven't been able to stop Philadelphia when they do that, and this is a team that I look at that is similar to that."
Bold prediction: The Ravens will have two 100-yard rushers.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "With Baltimore's top two pass targets (Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman) banged up, the Ravens will rely on their ground game. Lamar Jackson has run for the third-most yards in prime-time games (1,123) since 2018, and Kenyan Drake should get plenty of carries with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both injured. This wouldn't be the first time this has happened to the Saints, who allowed 100 yards to the Eagles' Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts in the same game in 2020."
The Saints are better than their record and will pull off the upset.
The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "For a team with a losing record, the Saints are pretty formidable. Demario Davis might be the best inside linebacker in the NFL. Running back Alvin Kamara is coming off a three-touchdown game. Rookie wide receiver Chris Olave is averaging nearly 15 yards per catch. Defensive ends Marcus Davenport and Cameron Jordan can stop the run. Safety Tyrann Mathieu is still a playmaker. Quarterback Andy Dalton is playing better than you think. It all adds up to a dangerous road test for the Ravens, especially if they're missing Mark Andrews and Gus Edwards."
Don't be surprised if there are a lot of penalties.
Sharp Football Analysis’ Joe Gibbs: "[Head referee] Brad Rogers is calling the third-most penalties per game in 2022 and the Saints are the third-most penalized team. … Rogers leads the NFL in defensive pass interference penalties and penalty yardage in this category in 2022. The Ravens have committed the fifth-most defensive pass interference penalties through eight weeks of the NFL season. The Saints lead the NFL in defensive holding penalties. … Rogers ranks third in roughing the passer penalties. The Ravens are top 10 in this category."
|ESPN||6 of 8 panelists pick Ravens|
|Baltimore Sun||4 of 5 panelists pick Ravens||“With a solid defense, an unorthodox running game and several big-play threats, the Saints aren’t your run-of-the-mill 3-5 opponent. But the Ravens will move the ball on the ground, and their massive advantage on special teams could come into play. They will batter their way to another victory in their midseason tour of the mediocre NFC South.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens|
|NFL.com||Ravens 25, Saints 24||“These would be my top two picks in the "better than their record" Olympics. Both teams could go streaking in the second half of the season — especially New Orleans, if rookie cornerback Alontae Taylor is as good as he looks and Marshon Lattimore returns to health. It's too early to say the Saints’ defense is back, but the offense is efficient enough and the Superdome will be rocking. I only give the Ravens a slight edge because they might have the best special teams in football, while the Saints might have the worst.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||9 of 10 panelists pick Ravens|
|Sporting News||Ravens 28, Saints 17||“The Ravens have boosted their pass rush with Roquan Smith and have played much-improved overall defense of late with a different coverage vs. pressure philosophy. That's bad news for Andy Dalton, who tends to have plenty of nightmares in prime-time games. Lamar Jackson will be a consistent all-around problem for the Saints' defense on the other side.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||4 of 8 panelists pick Ravens||“The Ravens will be rested after playing at Tampa Bay last Thursday. They ran the ball for over 200 yards in that game. That won't happen against this Saints defense. Look for the New Orleans defense to continue to play well after shutting out the Raiders last week.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens||“The Saints made a statement with their blowout of the Raiders last week, and I think they’ll be competitive with the Ravens. But ultimately I think the Ravens’ enormous special teams advantage will make the difference in this game.” — Michael David Smith|
|Sports Illustrated||5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens|
|Fansided||Ravens 25, Saints 22||“The Ravens are getting 11 days rest for this Monday night clash against the Saints, who are trying to fight their way back into the NFC South lead. Somehow, it’s incredibly possible.” — Matt Verderame|
Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen Ranked Among Top 10 Off-Ball Linebackers
The Next Gen Stats analytics team assembled a list of the top 10 off-ball linebackers entering Week 9, and the Ravens are the only team to have two of them: Smith (No. 6) and Patrick Queen (No. 10).
Here's what Next Gen Stats wrote about the Ravens' "terrific tandem at linebacker:"
"If [Smith's] tenure in Chicago is any indication, Baltimore has found a keeper. Since being drafted in 2018, Smith has arguably been the league's best tackler at the position, leading all off-ball 'backers in defensive stops (330) and run stuffs (64, tied for first with Tremaine Edmunds) over that span. The 2022 season has been no exception, as he leads the NFL with 83 tackles and ranks tied for second among off-ball linebackers with eight run stuffs (trailing Matt Milano's nine). Now playing in a division with the likes of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Joe Mixon, Smith's elite tackling skills will be put to the test like never before.
"Since joining Baltimore as a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Queen has led the Ravens in tackles every season. And this year, Queen has made a name for himself as a blitzer: His 11 QB pressures trail only Devin White's 12 among off-ball linebackers. Making hustle plays has also been a large part of Queen's game, as his average distance of 16.9 yards on defensive stops ranks second behind Denver LB Jonas Griffith among all linebackers with at least 20 stops."
The Ravens will face the No. 1-ranked off-ball linebacker — the Saints' Davis — tonight.
Kenyan Drake: Lamar Jackson's Playmaking Ability' Makes It Easy' for Ravens' RBs
With Edwards and Dobbins hampered by injuries this season, Drake has given the Ravens' running game a boost. He leads the team's running backs in rushing yards (251) and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Drake talked with NFL Network about the benefits of playing in offense with Jackson.
"It creates a crazy dimension of how a defense can spread out," Drake said. "Especially when we run sideways and he does his own power plays sometimes when he kind of pulls it and gives it. It makes it look like he still has the ball and takes two to three guys with him because they have to respect his ability even without the ball. So, with him just being that much of a playmaker it creates these crazy running lanes for us to just do our job. We kind of continue to do that week in and week out and it makes it easy for us."
Drake, who is playing on his fourth team in five years, is seeing firsthand just how special a player Jackson truly is.
"[Jackson] is just a game-breaker man," Drake said. "I feel like anytime somebody's in the backfield and the play kind of breaks down a D-lineman or safety that has a little bit more athletic ability, he just makes people look silly and it's amazing kind of just seeing it in person. Because seeing it on TV is one thing, but seeing it in person you're kind of tapping him on the back of the helmet like 'I don't know how you made that play but let's keep going.'"
Kyle Hamilton Is Highest-Graded Rookie Safety
Kyle Hamilton has experienced some growing pains in his first season, but he's become a solid contributor on an improving defense. The 14th-overall pick is Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded rookie safety this season.
"Hamilton hasn't been a Ravens starter, but he has played 20-plus snaps in five of eight games, improving as the season has gone on," PFF's Gordon McGuinness wrote. "After missing two tackles in the season opener against the New York Jets, he has missed just one over the next seven games. He's shown plenty of versatility, as he impressed in slot coverage against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, allowing just two receptions from 31 snaps in coverage."
In the Ravens' Week 7 win over the Cleveland Browns, Hamilton recorded his first sack at any level.