The Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints will square off on a football field for the third time in a year which is odd isn't it for an AFC and NFC team respectively? Well, both teams played each other during the preseason last year and played each other once again during the regular season last year as well with the Ravens winning both of those meetings. It's a brand new season with both teams looking to contend for a Super Bowl.
The Ravens have started off with a tough camp as usual provided arguably the toughest practices in the entire NFL under Super Bowl winning head coach John Harbaugh who is entering his eighth season as the head coach of the team. Harbaugh sets the tempo of practice whether the players like it or not. It's a very high tempo.
Even cornerback Lardarius Webb failed his conditioning test to start off camp. However, the Ravens do have the wins over the previous seven seasons to back up the tough practices as the team leads the NFL in playoff wins over since 2008 with 10 and set an NFL record for most road playoff wins in a seven year span with seven. If it isn't broke, don't fix it.
The Ravens have had it tough in other areas as well in camp as the team has dealt with the early injury bug. Third year strong safety Matt Elam is out for the season for completely tearing his biceps in practice and second year defensive end Brent Urban is out 8-12 weeks with a torn bicep of his own.
Webb has recently had a hamstring injury, rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman has been out of practice for over a week with a knee injury and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil has experienced tendonitis in his Achilles. Injuries have depleted the ravens over the last four seasons and it feels like there is no end in sight.
The Ravens have a brutal schedule to start the season as they are on the road five times in their first-seven games. All hands on deck will be needed by then for sure.
However, the Ravens have a pretty balanced team on paper. There isn't one real gaping hole on the team at the moment with quarterback Joe Flacco leading the charge. The one area if someone were to pick out a concern would be at tight end as there isn't a lot of experience to go around at the position as Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, and Crockett Gillmore have a combined 12 catches on the pro level. Veteran tight end Dennis Pitta is a huge question mark on whether or not he will ever play an NFL game again has he is recovering from a second hip injury in as many years.
On defense, the Ravens have looked very quick in practice. Defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Carl Davis have made their presence felt up the middle which has caused problems for a talented Ravens offensive line that only allowed 19 sacks last season which ranked as the second fewest in the NFL. Second year Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has played lights out as well in practice showing his speed and advanced knowledge of the game.
For the Saints, the team will be entering it's 10th season under Super Bowl winning head coach Sean Payton. The Saints are trying to recover from a disappointing 2014 season where the team finished with a 7-9 record and shockingly lost five straight home games while having the number one ranked offense in the NFL in terms of yards per game and the number nine ranked scoring offense in the NFL averaging 25.1 points a game. The Saints at home in the Superdome have been an intimidating team for opponents to play against in the past since quarterback Drew Brees and Payton came to town in 2006. While it isn't too late for the Saints to return to their dominance at home, the stars are going to have to align well.
The NFC South division crown in the 2015 season is certainly a goal the Saints can reach as the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record last season. The Panthers haven't gotten drastically better since then and if the Saints defense can play like an average defense, the Saints certainly have a shot at it even though they did trade away their best receiving weapon on offense Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks earlier this off-season.
But, the key to the Saints having a successful 2015 season will not only have to depend on Brees, but on the entire Saints defense. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is on the hot seat. If his defensive doesn't wake up on the field Ryan could be gone in the middle of the season. Allowing 28 points a game and allowing over 380 yards a game on defense like the Saints defense allowed last season isn't going to cut it for very long.
The Saints are lacking in depth on the defensive side of the ball while the organization is trying juggle staying under the salary cap at the same time. Having two of those combinations is a recipe for disaster and Ryan could end up being the scapegoat depending on how everything plays out.
In general, looking at the Saints, it just looks like the team is in a make or break mode. If the Saints have a season that results into a playoff birth, there may not be very many changes going forward. If the Saints have another 7-9 season, everyone could be under fire from general manager Mickey Loomis, to Payton and Brees. No one could be safe.
Both teams should certainly provide a good test for one another especially the Ravens defense going up against the Saints offense.