Eye on the Enemy: Week 15

As we plod towards yet another disappointing finale to the season, the good news is that it can't really get that much worse.  We'll once again likely have to watch the Steelers and Ravens in the postseason, which at least gives us somebody to cheer for as we can cheer for their demise.

In the meantime, we have a few more regular season games to look at for our divisional enemies.  At least all of us at home won't have to watch the Browns beat us in our own stadium this weekend.  (Think about it for a second and you'll realize that statement is actually true regardless of the game's outcome.)  Come on Mojo, predict another blowout loss for us so we have a chance! :)

Last weekend I went 1-1.  I was extremely uncertain about the Browns game and to absolutely no surprise whatsoever, they fulfilled my poor expectations.  And while the Ravens took care of business against the Texans, they sure tried very hard not to for much of that fourth quarter.  This leaves me still at .500 with a 13-13 record.

Let's get started with the AFC North Snoozer of the Week.

New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Oh how the mighty -- or at least the pompous -- have fallen hard and fast.  The Jets went from a team some people thought had a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl to a team that hasn't scored an offensive touchdown in MORE than two full games.  LaDainian Tomlinson looked very good to start the season but has flat out fallen off a cliff.  Mark Sanchez looks terrible and only hasn't been benched because Mark Brunell needs a granny walker in order to get on and off the field.  Shonn Greene is still a threat, but even he can't do everything if Sanchez can't get him the ball in space or if the offensive line can't open any holes for him to run through.  And this is the Steelers.  Hate them tho we all do, they do have a VERY elite run defense, which means it falls on Sanchez to get the job done.  I can't see him doing so, even without Troy Polamalu back there making a nuisance of himself.  Steelers 31, Jets 12.

AFC North Game of the Week.

New Orleans Saints @ Baltimore Ravens

It is very much a pity that in all but a tiny sliver of south-east Ohio we won't get to see the best game of the week involving an AFC North team on standard TV.  One way or another this will be a good game.  Those of us who get to watch it will either get to see what a defense is supposed to be played like (attacking the QB and sacking him) or we'll get to watch an elite QB carve a still very good defense to shreds.  Most of us would be quite happy to watch either of those outcomes and wish the Bengals could have either of those on our team.  Sadly, few if any of us will get to watch it, unless we go to a bar or have Sunday Ticket.

The last time I predicted an AFC North team to lose to the Saints, they beat them like a red-headed stepchild, including four picks of Drew Brees and two pick-6's.  Then the last time I predicted an AFC North team to beat the Saints, they pretty much returned the favor, sacking Ben three times, hitting him until he was nearly as black and yellow as his uniform (not like any of us were complaining about that), and intercepting him at the end to seal the victory.  I have no idea what lesson I'm supposed to learn from this, but I find it a bit of humorous history that hopefully you will get a chuckle out of.

This week the Ravens are coming off a squeaker of a victory over Houston, in which they nearly let the game get away until the defense decided to show up again when it was needed the most to escape with the win after all.  They haven't had a convincing win since the Panthers, but considering that most UFL teams could give the Panthers a run for their money right now that's not necessarily saying that much.  On the other hand, it's at their stadium and their pride has been wounded by people saying their defense has gotten old and isn't as good as it used to be.  (It happens to be true, but it still annoys them, and who can really blame them for that?)

The Saints are coming off a six game winning streak started by that drubbing of Ben that helped them get the win over the Steelers, with some cupcake games along the way and a few squeakers of their own.  Their offense has in many cases not looked quite as good as 2009, but their defense has usually been much better.  There have been a few exceptions, and they've also killed themselves with dumb penalties at times, such as the 12-men-on-the-field that gave us a TD drive and almost let the Bengals steal the game... until Drew stole it back with some really good acting that got in Peko's head.  Still, the Saints D has started to get turnovers again of late, and they've been MUCH better against both the pass and the run.  While they still don't get many sacks without blitzing, they blitz enough to get those sacks and run some pretty confusing schemes that can really get in a young QB's head if he isn't careful.

Add it all up and this should be a good game.  The Saints offensive line has not been as good this year as it was last year, but it's still very good.  If they can keep Drew clean, he'll carve the Ravens D up, whether that is by a million paper cuts or a few explosive plays.  But if the Ravens rush gets home, Drew will leave rather purple, and the carrion birds will likely get the win.  The Saints defense is far better than last year, but is it better enough to win the game against the Ravens on their own?  Hard to say.  But I despite the fact Drew truly is elite, people forget just how good the Saints running game can be as well.  Even if Chris Ivory sits, they still have a finally-healthy Pierre Thomas, a surprisingly decent Julius Jones (considering he looked like complete trash in Seattle, decent is actually surprising), and Reggie Bush can also run the ball too (despite his reputation as a finesse player he's quite capable of running over the average DB and even some LBs when he feels like it).  I think that combined with an offense that should be able to still put up a decent number of points, the Saint defense will be good enough to get the job done.  Saints 35, Ravens 24.

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