Ravens-Saints Preview

The New Orleans Saints aren't kidding themselves about their current situation.

Sure, they're right at the top of the NFC South and involved in a jumbled race for what almost assuredly will be the division's lone playoff berth.

But that 4-6 record? That's a different story.

"We can't escape the reality of where we are right now," quarterback Drew Brees said. "You are what your record says you are. We're a 4-6 team right now. None of us feel that because we're still in contention that that's good enough. We still have a lot of work to do."

New Orleans hasn't lost three straight home games since a six-game slide in 2005, but that would change if they can't bounce back against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.

The Saints lost 27-24 in overtime to San Francisco on Nov. 9 before last week's 27-10 defeat to Cincinnati, a contest during which they appeared "flat," according to coach Sean Payton.

New Orleans has lost by three points or fewer four times but certainly doesn't care about moral victories. Each team in the division is below .500, with Atlanta owning an identical 4-6 record but having won the teams' first meeting.

If they can turn around their season, the Saints could wind up with a home playoff game despite the current struggles.

"There have been a number of tough losses, close losses, and what that means is at this point in the season, that margin for error becomes that much more slight," Payton said. "We're playing a six-game season right now. The emphasis will shift very quickly to Baltimore and our preparations. We have to find a way to get a win this week."

New Orleans will have to do that without two starters, though. Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks had surgery to repair a broken right thumb, and safety Rafael Bush is out with a broken leg. Both were placed on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday.

"We have to be physically and mentally prepared for what's obviously a very important game against Baltimore," Payton said.

The Ravens (6-4) are involved in a tight division race of their own, as each team in the NFC North has at least six victories. They ended a two-game skid with a 21-7 win over Tennessee on Nov. 9 and have gotten a nice late-season rest due to last week's bye.

"Players took some time off and kind of emotionally and physically recharged a little bit," coach John Harbaugh said. "You don't realize how exhausted you are until you get a chance to take a deep breath and relax."

Harbaugh emphasized, though, that Baltimore has to quickly get back into game mode to be prepared for a hungry New Orleans team.

"We're going to have a tough environment," Harbaugh said. "They're coming off two losses, they're a very proud team, very well coached, very talented. Great quarterback, aggressive defense.

"We're going to have our hands full and we'd better be ready to go. I'd like to think our guys understand that, but we'll find out Monday night."

Justin Forsett had another solid effort against the Titans, rushing for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. He's averaging 5.4 yards per rush, tops among all running backs.

Forsett could be in for another big day against the Saints, who are allowing 4.8 per carry and 146.3 rushing yards per game over the last three weeks.

New Orleans has struggled against the pass virtually all season, ranking 24th at 255.2 yards per contest, and is tied for the fifth-fewest takeaways (10) - factors that could bode well for a slumping Joe Flacco.

Flacco threw 12 touchdowns and three interceptions through the first six games, but he's thrown five of each over the last four.

The Ravens aren't much better against the pass, allowing an average of 251.2 yards (21st), and have an equally low number of interceptions as the Saints (six).

Brees leads the league with a 69.5 completion percentage after connecting on at least 80 percent for the second time last week, finishing 33 of 41 for 255 yards and a score without an INT. He's one TD pass shy of his 11th straight season with at least 20.

"We know what we're up against," said cornerback Danny Gorrer, who had an interception against the Titans. "... We're getting ready to face a Hall of Fame quarterback, and we've got to rise up to the occasion."

Baltimore has won four of five all-time meetings, most recently overcoming three TD passes from Brees in a 30-24 victory in 2010.

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