METAIRIE, La. -- Drew Brees smiled as soon as the question began.
Where would beating the Baltimore Ravens rank on his career bucket list alongside things such as that all-time passing yardage record he broke last week and the 500th career touchdown pass he is about to throw?
"Yeah, I mean, listen, I'd love to beat these guys," Brees said.
As ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley broke down earlier this week, Baltimore is the one team Brees has never beaten in his 18-year NFL career. He is 0-3 as a member of the New Orleans Saints and went 0-1 against Baltimore early in his career with the San Diego Chargers.
If the fifth try is the charm on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox), Brees will join Peyton Manning and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to beat all 32 NFL teams.
When asked how much it nags at him as a competitor that there is one team out there that he hasn't checked off the list, Brees smiled again and said, "A little bit."
But then he quickly said he needs to make Sunday's trip to Baltimore like "any other game" -- to "turn on the film and digest what you see."
Unfortunately, what he sees when he turns on that film is a Ravens team that will be as tough to beat as any he has faced before.
The Ravens (4-2) have the NFL's most dominant defense so far this season. They rank first in the NFL by a wide margin in yards allowed per game (270.8), points allowed per game (12.8) and sacks (26). They had 11 sacks last week in a 21-0 shutout of the Tennessee Titans.
"We've got our work cut out for us," said Brees, who called 36-year-old edge rusher Terrell Suggs "the ageless wonder" with his 4.5 sacks this season and 130 in his career.
Takes one ageless wonder to know one, apparently.
"You always know it's gonna be a slugfest," Brees said of facing the Ravens. "Extremely talented defense across the board. Front, linebacker corps, back end in the secondary. They've built that defense to fit those pieces. So our execution has to be at a premium to beat these guys."
The good news is the Saints (4-1) are no slouches themselves.
Their offense ranks first in the NFL with 36.0 points per game and third with 424 yards per game. Brees, 39, leads the league with a career-best passer rating of 122.3 and an astounding completion percentage of 77.9. He has thrown 11 touchdown passes with zero interceptions.
As Saints left tackle Terron Armstead said when asked about how much "moxie" the Ravens have on defense: "We feel like we have some moxie as well."
The Saints are one of the hottest NFL teams, winners of four straight. But they are about to be tested in a huge way -- and not just by the Ravens.
New Orleans has the league's toughest remaining schedule, according to both opponents' win percentage and ESPN's Football Power Index.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Saints' upcoming stretch of five games will be the toughest five-game stretch any team has faced so far this season: at Baltimore (No. 2 in FPI), at the Minnesota Vikings (No. 11), vs. the Los Angeles Rams (No. 1), at the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 15) and vs. the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 10).
Later this season, the Saints also host the No. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers and No. 14 Atlanta Falcons, travel to face the No. 10 Dallas Cowboys and No. 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and face the No. 16 Carolina Panthers twice, home and away.
All 11 of their remaining opponents rank in the FPI's top 20. (The Saints rank fifth, by the way).
"I mean, there's still so much of the season left," Brees said when asked if he is aware of the gauntlet the Saints are about to face. "And we understand the importance of each game, each and every week. There's just so much football left to be played."
"The main concern is Baltimore right now," Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "Baltimore is by all standards one of the league's top teams. When you look at what they present on offense … and their defense speaks for itself. Eleven sacks in a game, I pretty much don't need to see anything else but that.
"So we've got a challenge on our hands. We'll worry about this one first and then worry about the rest of the schedule later."