baltimore ravensThe Baltimore Ravens try to wrap up an undefeated preseason and the New Orleans Saints try to avoid a winless preseason in a meeting of Super Bowl champion quarterbacks Thursday night. The Saints will step outside the normal parameters of the preseason and play their starters including quarterback Drew Brees.

What: Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints, Thursday, September 1, 8:00 p.m. ET, Superdome, New Orleans, LA.

Last Week/Next Week

The New Orleans Saints sank to 0-3 in the preseason with a 27-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They open the regular season by hosting the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, September 11 at 1 p.m. The Baltimore Ravens whipped the Detroit Lions 30-9 last week to improve to 3-0 in the preseason. The Ravens host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, September 11 at 1 p.m. ET in their regular season opener.

New Orleans Saints Preview

It looks like the New Orleans Saints are in panic mode and the regular season hasn’t even started yet. The Saints announced Tuesday that they’ll play their starters for a quarter on Thursday against Baltimore. That’s a week that virtually every other team rests all of its important players. It’s more of a time for reserves and guys at the end of the bench to make their case for roster and rotation spots.

“We’re gonna play a lot of our guys early on in this game,” Saints coach Sean Payton said Tuesday. “I think it’s important that those guys get work at those positions. And so our plan early in the first quarter is to play our starters and then make a transition at some point.”

The Saints have played like hot garbage in their first three games. They are -6 in turnovers and allowed Pittsburgh to completed almost 80% of its passes for 342 yards in last week’s loss.

Safety Kenny Vacarro dismissed the game as being one bad outing for an improving defense.

“We just didn’t do what we did all camp,” Vaccaro said. “We kind of just took some steps back, I guess, with our focus and the details, the little things of the game. A lot of the deep balls they caught, we were right there, in camp we’re turning around and making a play.”

Brees Looks Cool

Future Hall of Famer Brees looked sharp in the loss to the Steelers, completing 9-of-12 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. The defense allowed 417 yards of offense and recorded just one turnover – a Le’Veon Bell fumble.

The team did see a small ray of sunshine from C.J. Spiller, who the team acquired via trade from Buffalo last season. Spiller had four rushes for 20 yards, caught three passes, and returned a pair of kickoffs for 39 yards.

Baltimore Ravens Preview

Injuries decimated the Baltimore Ravens in 2016. It was that same old sick feeling over the weekend. Instead of celebrating the return of Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs, the team watch tight end Ben Watson go down with  a torn ACL on the first play of the game.

Watson will miss the entire season. Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon sprained his knee in the second quarter and missed the rest of the game. Early reports suggest he’ll miss four weeks.

Ravens’ head coach Jim Harbaugh used the injuries as a platform to challenge the league to shorter preseasons.

“Maybe it’s more games than we need,” he said. “Fewer preseason games and bigger rosters — that’s good for everybody. “We can find ways to get our guys ready to go and evaluated without the risk the game necessarily entails.”

Harbaugh suggested the number of preseason games per year could drop to zero as far as he’s concerned.

Return of Flacco, Suggs

While Watson was gone, Flacco looked sharp in his first game action since last November. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.

“It felt really good,” Flacco said. “I was a little quick on a couple things, but it felt great to be back out there. To get back out there — to be out there with the guys — that’s what it is all about.”

Suggs, the last active player remaining from the Ravens’ legendary defenses of the first 15 years of this century, played for the first time in 11 months.

“You never really know how much you miss something until you don’t have it anymore,” Suggs said. “I’ve really missed being out there, so I loved every minute tonight.”

Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints Predictions

My main prediction is that New Orleans Saints fans are panicking that Drew Brees is going to get hurt in this totally meaningless game and the team will then go 0-16.

Score Prediction: New Orleans Saints 23, Baltimore Ravens 16