The Ravens came from behind to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a short Week 8, earning back-to-back wins for the first time on the year. The New Orleans Saints shut out the Las Vegas Raiders in their best all-around performance of the season. Which team will benefit if the match is on “Monday Night Football”?
Quay Passing Game vs Saint Pass Defense
Lamar Jackson is dealing with a depleted set of targets after No. 1 wide receiver Rashod Bateman aggravated a foot injury in the win over the Buccaneers and opted for season-ending surgery. Jackson’s top target, tight end Mark Andrews (42 catches, 488 yards, five touchdowns), also suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the game, but is more likely to be ready for the Saints. . Wide receiver Devin DuVernay (24 catches on 32 targets, 313 yards, three touchdowns) is Jackson’s best option behind Bettman and Andrews, but DeMarcus Robinson also stepped up against the Buccaneers with six catches on eight targets for 64 yards. Rookie tight end Isaiah, meanwhile, likely filled Andrews’ shoes with a career-best game (six catches on seven targets, 77 yards) that he had in the preseason. Jackson got the job done against Tampa Bay, avoiding mistakes and completing all eight of his passes in the second half. He ranks fifth in ESPN’s QBR statistic, which measures all-around quarterback play. He’s also benefited from strong pass blocking, with left tackle Ronnie Stanley returning to form after missing nearly two years with an ankle injury.
The Ravens will face an above-average pass defense that stifled the Raiders’ Derek Carr (15-for-26, 101 yards, interception) in Week 8. So they don’t succeed by destroying pockets. They don’t force too many turnovers. According to Pro Football Focus, their cornerbacks have the best average. So how are they doing it? Well, they have an elite playmaker in safety Taryn Mathieu and a terrific all-around linebacker in Demario Davis. According to Football Outsiders, they cover tight ends better than any defense in the league. He excels on third down and in the red zone. Joe Burrow was the only quarterback to go at him this season in Week 6.
Saints passing game vs. Ravens pass defense.
A week after beating Tom Brady, the Ravens will face another old friend in former AFC North nemesis Andy Dalton, who has performed well since stepping in for Jameis Winston in Week 4. Dalton has completed 65.2 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns to four. Hurdles He will be without star wide receiver Michael Thomas (foot) against the Ravens, but has plenty of other dynamic targets, led by standout rookie Chris Olave (37 catches on 63 targets, 547 yards, two touchdowns). And versatile running back Alvin Kumara does. (33 catches on 45 targets, 287 yards, two touchdowns). Kamara is of particular concern to a Ravens defense that has better covered wide receivers than tackle dangerous running backs after short catches. Dalton has only four sacks in five starts, in part because he gets rid of the ball quickly and in part because of solid work from tackles Ryan Ramzek and James Hurst, the former Raven.
The Ravens are 22nd in blitz rate and 26th in pressures per dropback, but they are tied for fifth with 23 sacks, a sign that they have rushers finishing plays when opportunities arise. Outside linebacker Justin Houston produced four sacks in the final two games despite playing fewer snaps as he recovered from a back injury. Justin Madobuyck, Kelis Campbell and Broderick Washington have created interior pressure, while linebacker Patrick Quinn, tied for second on the team with 3 1/2 sacks, is a threat every time he blitzes. Trade addition Roquan Smith could also be an option threat as a pass rusher, and the Ravens will benefit from the return of outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, who is as effective in coverage as he is chasing the quarterback. Their biggest threat is a lack of depth at cornerback, where neither Demarion “Pepe” Williams nor Brandon Stephens have established themselves as consistent complements to starters Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey.
Ravens run game vs. Saints run defense.
The Ravens destroyed the Buccaneers on the ground with 204 rushing yards in the second half alone. They hope Gus Edwards (hamstring) will be available against the Saints, as his strength gives him a new dimension, especially in clutch, short-yardage situations. Justice Hill and Kenya Drake were effective against Tampa Bay, combining for 90 yards on 11 carries. They took advantage of a more mobile offensive line, led by center Tyler Linderbaum and tackles Stanley and Morgan Moses, to stretch the field horizontally. Jackson is a weapon no one can defend, leading the team with 553 rushing yards on 7.4 yards per carry. The Ravens average a league-best 5.7 yards per carry overall.
The Saints aren’t as good against the run as they are against the pass, but they held the Raiders and Josh Jacobs to 38 rushing yards. They haven’t played well against teams with threats at quarterback, including the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals. The Saints don’t have a dominant interior playmaker, but Davis, their every-down linebacker, is excellent, and their edge defenders have played well against the run.
EDGE: The Ravens
Saints run game vs. Ravens run defense.
The Saints aren’t as dangerous on the ground as the Ravens, but they average 5 yards per carry, seventh best in the league. Kumara (413 yards) is their leading rusher. Quarterback Tasem Hill (8.6 yards per carry, five touchdowns) is their most dangerous weapon, as defenses never know where he’s going to line up. Sometimes, he’s a tight end. Sometimes, he runs back. Sometimes, he takes snaps as the Wildcat quarterback. Always, Hill’s combination of power and speed presents problems, and the Saints will test the edges of the Baltimore defense.
The Ravens have stepped up their defensive defense in recent weeks and the addition of Smith, who led the league for the Chicago Bears, will hopefully clarify that picture. Queen’s is having his best season, but Smith is the more consistent playmaker in the middle. While we won’t see his full impact until after Week 10 against the Ravens, he could be useful against Hill. Internally, the Ravens expect Campbell to return after he missed the Buccaneers game with an illness.
Ravens special teams vs. Saints special teams.
According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens continue to lap the field in special teams DVOA. Justin Tucker had a 61-yard field goal attempt blocked against the Buccaneers. Otherwise, he has made 16 of 17 attempts, including five of more than 50 yards. Punter Jordan Stout had his best game as a pro. DuVernay is the league’s best returner, averaging 15.1 yards on punts and 31.9 yards on kickoffs. Kicker Will Lutz, a former Raven, has struggled for the Saints, making just 12 of 17 field goal attempts, with four of his misses coming within 50 yards. New Orleans did not excel in either aspect of special teams, ranking 30th in DVOA.
EDGE: The Ravens
Ravens intangibles vs Saints intangibles
The Ravens emerged from their comeback win against the Buccaneers with an earned sense of hope and added to that by trading Smith, one of the best players on the market. With every other team in the AFC North at or below .500, they know it’s their time to take advantage. They had three more days to prepare for the Saints, who couldn’t hurt.
New Orleans is off to a disappointing 2-5 start under coach Dennis Allen, who went 8-28 during his previous head coaching stint with the Raiders. But they put themselves back in the NFC South mix with their shutout of the Raiders, and their offense is starting to click with Dalton replacing Winston.
EDGE: The Ravens
With a solid defense, an unorthodox game and several big-play threats, the Saints aren’t your typical 3-5 opponent. But the Ravens will move the ball on the ground, and their big advantage on special teams could come into play. They’ll be on their way to another victory in their midseason tour of the middling NFC South. Ravens 27, Saints 20