Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Charm City (cup)Cakes

Oh, don’t let the title fool ya. That’s just me shoehorning a barely-relevant host city reference, as usual. I Googled “Baltimore’s most famous douchebag” and it came down to either Duff Goldman or Greg Kihn. Personally, I’d drink a beer with either of those guys, but then again, I often find myself drinking beer with douchebags. And who am I to argue with Google? Anyway, rest assured that I’m shitting my pants in fear over here, just like a Real Fan™ is supposed to. Keeping my game face on, not allowing myself to be too kihnceited, maintaining an appropriate level of nervous kihnsternation and whatnot.

Unfortunately, I’m finding it kihnsiderably difficult to maintain an adequate amount of fear. And it just gets harder and harder as gameday approaches.

For one thing, it’s looking more and more like the weather kihnditions aren’t going to be nearly as big an issue as originally feared. Oh sure, it’s still gonna be colder than a witch’s tit out there Sunday. But every time I check the forecast, the chances of precipitation have been revised downward. As it stands right now, they’re calling for a positively balmy high of 35 and only a 10% chance of precip.

Still not exactly kihnducive to maximum effectiveness for a dome team, but it’s looking more and more like it might be less of a factor than it was a couple weeks ago at Cincinnati. Fingers crossed for a bullet dodged.

But even moreso than that, well, the Saints are simply the better team. Just about across the board, actually.

Let’s start with the easy ones. The Saints are 3rd in the league in total offense, 386 yards per game. Baltimore is 18th, 334.8 per. The Saints are 6th in scoring offense, 25.4 points per game. Baltimore is 14th, 22.6 points per. The Saints are 3rd in the league in passing offense, 284.9 passing yards per. Baltimore is 14th, 229.9 passing yards per.

Baltimore holds an extremely slight advantage in rushing offense, they’re 21st in the league with 104.9 rushing yards per game, while the Saints are 22nd with 101.1 rushing yards per game. But they also run a hell of a lot more rushing plays (383 to 320) for fewer yards per (3.6 ypc to 4.1 ypc.) That’s 63 extra rushing plays on the season for 50 extra rushing yards, 0.8 yards per. Which I suppose in some quarters actually tips the scales even more in Baltimore’s favor. After all, the only thing better than running as often as possible is running as inefficiently as possible, right? See, it runs a bunch of clock and shit.

But those of us who subscribe to the ridiculous kihncept that any given play should gain as much yardage as possible would probably assert that the Saints run the ball a hell of a lot more effectively than Baltimore does (a half-yard per carry difference is pretty damn signifikihnt.) And with Pierre healthy again, assuming Ironbutt’s hammy doesn’t land him right in the spot Pierre just vacated, it can be reasonably assumed that the half-yard per carry gap should only increase. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Of course, that assumes the Saints run the ball Sunday. Which they probably won’t. As ‘YuneTube Superstar Jeff Duncan astutely pointed out yesterday in his 4-Minute Drill, Sean Payton has made a habit of pissing everybody off by passing all damn day long in games where kihnventional wisdom would suggest you should run, run, and then run some more.

J-Dunc goes on to cite New England’s 36-7 thrashing of Chicago last weekend, in which Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and 2 touchdowns on the road in freezing, snowy weather against a “fearsome” defense (better than Baltimore’s, actually) whose achilles heel is their secondary, as evidence of why heads might very well be exploding yet again as the Saints build a two-score lead in the wrong way. Damn that Sean Payton and his infernal kihntrarian ways!

It may kihnfound you, however, to discover that the Saints are every bit as good as the Ravens defensively as well. Oh, I shit you not.

The Saints are 6th in total defense (308.6 total yards allowed per game) and 5th in passing defense (198.6 passing yards per game) while the Ravens are 10th (319.8 ypg) and 14th (221.1 ypg.) Baltimore holds an 11 yards per game edge in rush defense, and allows a little less than 1 fewer point per game.

Overall, let’s call it a draw, even though the Saints’ defense has allowed 3 fewer field goals and 2 fewer touchdowns than Baltimore’s defense. (The “scoring defense” stat is skewed by 5 defensive touchdowns by Saints opponents, which of course aren’t really the fault of our defense. Let’s hope that little factor doesn’t loom large Sunday.)

(By the way, speaking of… uh… little factors… as always, let’s hope nothing too important ends up resting on Hartley’s leg. Former John Carney Insurance Policy Billy Cundiff is 19 of 22 on the season, while Scooter is 21 of 27.)

Meantime, bet you wouldn’t have guessed that the Saints defense currently has 2 more sacks than the Ravens defense. The Saints and Ravens are both allowing 5.1 yards per play. The Saints are currently allowing opponents to convert 35% of their 3rd downs (59 of 167) while the Ravens are allowing 36% (68 of 188.)

And perhaps most important of all, on the season, the Saints defense has spent 53 fewer seconds on the field than the Ravens defense has! Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gonna be gassed by the time they toss the coin! High five!

Special teams could be a bit of a kihncern. Baltimore currently ranks 9th in the league in kick return average, at 24.8 yards per. They also have a 103 yard return for a touchdown. The good news is that theoretically that can easily be neutralized by Thomas Morstead and his stunningly handsome newfound facial hair continuing to handle kickoff duties. On the other hand, while everybody’s been all smiles about Courtney Roby’s condition, he remains kihncussed and surely won’t play Sunday. At least the Saints are slightly less crappy than the Ravens on punt returns (8.4 to 7.3 per.) So we’ve got that going for us.

All things considered though, the obvious kihnclusion here is that the Saints are simply the better team. Not to mention the hotter team. The Ravens are 3-2 over their last 5. They’ve been outscored in the 2nd half 7-0, 10-3 and 21-7 in their last 3. And while it’s a home game for Baltimore, they’re coming off an overtime game. On Monday night.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that the Saints ought to walk all over these chumps or anything like that. Baltimore is 9-4, they’re clearly not chumps. The game could very well be decided by a turnover. Which sucks for us, being as we’ve got Reggie Bush. And Drew Brees. (Wait, what do you mean there are two separate angry mobs here to see me? I sure hope they don’t merge!)

Alls I’m sayin’ is I don’t understand the seemingly prevailing attitude that it’s gonna take some kind of miracle for the Saints to come away with an “upset” win Sunday. Surely it isn’t because the Ravens won a Super Bowl 10 years ago with Trent Dilfer, Shannon Sharpe and Brian Billick. Nor could it be because the Ravens are currently not nearly as good on either side of the ball as they’ve been at any other time during the Harbaugh/Flacco era. And it sure as hell isn’t because the Saints have a better record than the Ravens, are riding a 6-game winning streak, and are better than the Ravens in pretty much all phases of the game.

All I can figure is that it must be that patented Saints fan neurosis bubbling back to the surface when the kihnsequences of a loss are at their greatest. Guess we ought to go ahead and get used to that for the next couple months. That is, assuming you ever got un-used to it in the first place. Because, when you think about it, did it ever really go away? Hell, half of us have been shitting our pants since week one. But hey, four decades of getting repeatedly kicked in the genitals tends to leave a mark.

So if you’re one of those people who’s just waiting for that season-ending, soul-crushing 3-game losing streak to commence starting Sunday, then more power to ya. I guess. I’m just saying that from where I sit, #wegotthis.

Kihnfidence is high.