NFL Picks: In-Depth Team Analysis Favors Ravens -3 Over Saints in Preseason Week 1 Game

David Lawrence

Thursday, August 13, 2015 4:30 PM GMT

The Baltimore Ravens had a very solid 2014 season, while the New Orleans Saints were one of the biggest disappointments in the league. How will these two teams respond to their first game of the preseason on Thursday night?

What We Know About The Coaches
John Harbaugh is 19-9 all-time in the preseason as Baltimore’s head coach. He is 2-2 and 4-0 in the last two preseasons. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton is 21-17 in the preseason. He has gone 3-1 in each of his last two preseasons, so that’s fairly even from a preseason standpoint.

Edge: Even

 

Quarterback Rotation
For Baltimore, Joe Flacco is the starting quarterback, but it gets very interesting in the second spot. NFL veteran and former starter Matt Schaub will back up Flacco. He has had a terrible time avoiding pick-sixes. He threw lots of interceptions returned for touchdowns in Houston with the Texans. This might be the last chance for him to have a viable career. Jerry Lovelocke is the third-string quarterback for the Ravens. He might struggle even more than Grayson.

The Saints will naturally start with Drew Brees, but this being the first preseason game, they do not figure to keep him in for very long. The second-stringer gets a long look in the first game, and the third-stringer gets a legitimate chance to play as well. Luke McCown, who has bounced around the NFL, is the number two guy for New Orleans. Ryan Griffin had to get 50 stitches due to an assault suffered in June, and so Garrett Grayson is going to be in the mix, replacing Griffin at third on the depth chart. McCown should be able to move the ball against Baltimore’s second-string defense, but Grayson might struggle.

Edge: Ravens

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Team Depth & Rotations
Saints receiver Marques Colston and safety Jairus Byrd, two certain starters on opening day if they’re healthy, will not play in this game. Cornerback P.J. Williams and wide receiver Jalen Saunders, farther down the depth chart, are also unlikely to see action in this game.

For the Saints, running backs Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller should sit this one out. They’ll give way to Khiry Robinson and Marcus Murphy. The Saints shouldn’t worry about the run game, though; they need to find out how well their offensive line pass blocks, and what kind of production they can get from McCown.

The Saints are trying out two new kickers, Zach Hocker and Dustin Hopkins. That could be an issue if the game is close in the final minutes.

The Ravens have a veteran starter at running back with Justin Forsett, so backup Lorenzo Taliaferro will be called upon a lot. Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman won’t play. Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken will be expected to get a lot of playing time in this game. The limited Baltimore offense against the untested New Orleans defense is what will probably decide this game.

As linebackers, the Saints have rookies Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha. Five of the seven Saints on the front seven were not on the roster last season. That’s a big point of concern. Baltimore will hope to exploit those matchups when those Saints defenders are on the field.

Edge: Ravens

 

Outlook & Pick
Coaching is even, but quarterback and the other positional rotations favor Baltimore - especially the Ravens’ front line against the Saints’ pass rush and linebackers. Schaub should be able to outduel McCown in a battle of the backups. Take Baltimore with your NFL picks.

NFL Pick: Ravens -3 at Bovada

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