New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens Free Pick and Preview

New Orleans Saints
(10-3, 6-7 ATS)

Baltimore Ravens
(9-4, 6-6-1 ATS)

One of the best teams in the NFC and one of the best in the AFC meet in a potential Super Bowl showdown, as the New Orleans Saints duke it out with the Baltimore Ravens in what should be a fantastic NFL betting battle in the giant crab cake. Though both of these teams aren’t in great shape to win their divisions, no one is doubting the fact that both can come from Wild Card spots to win the Super Bowl.

New Orleans is in good shape right now, but a loss in this one would probably eliminate any hope of winning the NFC South and would put it just one game up on the final playoff spot with two to play. A win could clinch up a spot in the second season, and with some help, it could make next week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons a de facto NFC South and No. 1 winner take all bonanza. However, there are a lot of steps to take first. The Saints have won six in a row and are streaking right now, tied for the third best record in the league with the Pittsburgh Steelers. An offense that is averaging 386.0 yards per game is back at as full of strength as it will be at for the rest of the year, as both RB Reggie Bush and RB Pierre Thomas are back in the fold. However, this is still a football belonging to QB Drew Brees, as he has 3,855 yards and will certainly become a 4,000 yard passer this weekend. This defense is very underrated as well, as allowing 18.5 points per game would look significantly better if not for a number of defensive and special teams scores.

Baltimore is coming off of a tremendous survival period, as it needed a pick six by DB Josh Wilson to make it through Reliant Stadium against the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. This has to have really drained the team, especially the defense, which spent a ton of time on the field and allowed Houston to march 99 and 95 yards in the fourth quarter against it on Monday. Now, there is a short week of preparation, a long flight home, and the defending champs coming to town. Yikes! Defensively, things are great for Baltimore, but there are clearly some signs of breaking down. The offense is better than it has been in recent years, but QB Joe Flacco really didn’t tear apart one of the worst secondaries in the league on Monday, and that has to be cause for concern going into this one against a New Orleans team that has a great second and has an offense that you know is going to score its points. Flacco has thrown for 3,223 yards this year, but he is going to need to produce more than 334.8 yards per game to bring the Ravens into the second season.

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There is just a ton on the line for both of these teams in this one. We saw the Ravens fold up shop on primetime football two weeks ago against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and things just haven’t been the same since. Baltimore will get into the playoffs. We already know this. What we’re not so sure of is whether the Saints, who have a significantly tougher schedule, will. We’ll go with the hot hand in this one though, as the champs are going to storm into Atlanta next week looking to steal back the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

NFL Free Pick: New Orleans Saints +1

US cities house hundreds of pets after hurricanes

AP Worldstream September 18, 2008 | JAY ROOT and ANGELA K. BROWN Hurricane Ike was about as mighty and destructive as they come, but it couldn’t break the bond between Nora Smallwood and her two dogs. She’d just as soon drown than abandon them. austin humane society

“They’re my life,” the 78-year-old said after being evacuated from her home in La Marque, near Galveston. “There was just no way I was going to leave them.” Luckily, she didn’t have to. She usually visits Honey and T.T. twice a day, riding a city bus to the Austin Humane Society from her shelter at the convention center.

Like Smallwood, hundreds along the Gulf Coast evacuated with their pets before hurricanes Gustav and Ike roared ashore this month _ unlike in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many Louisiana residents were not allowed to take pets on buses, causing more anguish. Others refused to leave their animals behind, leaving many to perish with their pets.

That led to the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, passed by Congress in 2006 to make sure state and local governments help pets’ during a major disaster or emergency. Texas passed a similar law last year.

“This act is not only saving pets’ lives _ it’s saving human lives,” said Scott Haisley, senior director of emergency services for the Humane Society of the United States, which supported the federal law.

In the first major Gulf hurricanes since Katrina, officials in cities across Texas say housing the furry, feathered and scaly loved ones of evacuees has for the most part gone well.

Health regulations prohibit the creatures from living in the same rooms as people, so some cities provide transportation so evacuees can visit their pets at animal shelters. That gives them something to do and makes them feel better during a time of upheaval, officials said.

“That is emotionally comforting to people because they have contact with the only thing they feel they have left,” said Dorinda Pulliam, shelter director for Town Lake Animal Shelter in Austin.

In Austin, officials drop off pet supply kits _ including carrying crates and waste disposal bags _ before evacuees even arrive at the shelters. Other cities have adopted similar models.

Fort Worth keeps evacuees’ pets at the city animal shelter and provides free microchips for the critters to make sure they will be matched with their owners. in our site austin humane society

Evacuees staying at the Dallas Convention Center can play and cuddle with their pets at another area of the complex just across the street.

“We get a lot of hugs from folks with tears in their eyes,” said Kent Robertson, a division manager with Dallas animal services. “Their homes have been destroyed, and they don’t know what they’re going to do, but they have a place for their animals.” So far, Humane Society workers have rescued several hundred animals after Gustav and Ike. But they said they expect the number to be far less than the 10,000 pets rescued in Louisiana and Mississippi after Katrina _ and far less than the scores found dead.

“We are seeing fewer animals left behind,” Haisley said.

___ Associated Press writer Angela K. Brown reported from Fort Worth, Texas.


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