To say the least, this Monday Night matchup against the Packers is a very interesting one. First props to all the Ravens fans who have made the journey to the frozen tundra. Last night I received an email from one such fan (Ray Schissler) who enjoyed the coziness of a Green Bay area pub called the Tilted Kilt with about 100 Ravens’ fans AND Jon Gruden in attendance.
Bring home a “W”!
Tonight marks the first time EVER that Green Bay has hosted a Monday Night game in December. Go ahead, lay on the conspiracy theory about how the authors of the NFL schedule put the screws to the Ravens. Adding to the conspiracy, this marks the fourth time this season that a team enters a contest against the purple and black well rested. The Ravens have faced three teams coming off byes and Green Bay has been kicking back since Thanksgiving. Some might say even before that since their “competition” on Thanksgiving Day was the Detroit Lions.
The Packers enter the contest as the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL. Coincidentally this marks the third consecutive game that the Ravens have faced the NFL’s best defense. The Colts and Steelers were both ranked No. 1 entering their respective games against the Ravens.
Defense unfortunately for those of us who have developed an appreciation for such things, is on the decline. There are no dominant defenses in the NFL anymore. The league’s rules committees and pansy officials have helped usher in that trend! Green Bay’s defense is no exception. Nobody asked me but I think they are a fraud.
Before this weekend’s games, the Packers’ opponents were a combined 52-69 (.430). Their wins have come against teams with a combined 23-54 (.299) and only 1 opponent that they defeated has a winning percentage above .500 (Dallas Cowboys).
During their last four games the Packers have surrendered 20 points per contest. Now on the surface that doesn’t seem so bad but three of their opponents (Detroit, Tampa, San Francisco) on average are ranked 28th on offense. Last time I checked there are only 32 teams in the league.
Plus the Packers yielded 38 points to Tampa. Green Bay’s generosity contributed to Tampa’s only win thus far in the 2009 campaign.
Aaron Rodgers miraculously is a hot QB. He’s been knocked to the turf with ball in hand 44 times this season. That’s gotta hurt. Plus his guys up front are nursing injuries of their own. Who’s protecting whom?
The Packers do protect the football. They are plus 17 in turnover differential, far and away the league’s best in that category. They are ball hogs as well, holding possession on average 33:26 of every contest they’ve played and during the last four games, that figure has jumped to 37 minutes. To put that in perspective, the Pack has had the ball nearly a full quarter more than their opponents during those contests.
And THAT is why their defense is No. 1! If you aren’t on the field, opponents don’t accumulate offensive yardage. Pretty simple formula don’t you think?
Unfortunately for Green Bay they will be without plus defensive contributors DE Aaron Kampman and CB Al Harris both lost to injuries for the season.
This is a VERY winnable game for the Ravens.
In many ways, this game reminds me of the team’s December road trip in 2008 to Dallas. Few gave the Ravens a chance in that one. But they stuck with the run and eventually put the game away on the legs of Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain. They also won the turnover battle during the evening of Texas Stadium’s final curtain call. I am expecting similar results tonight.
Over the course of the last five games, the Ravens have given up on average 11.5 points per game. While their defense hasn’t been stellar, they have for the most part limited big plays. They have also slowly rediscovered something that will help them tonight – the three headed monster of Messrs. Rice, McGahee and McClain. I think they’ll ride that monster to victory tonight.
Tonight’s winning recipe:
Break even on the turnover war.
Don’t allow Green Bay to control the clock.
Win on first down.
Set up the run with the pass.
Keep the penalties in check (special teams’ violations cost the team 125 yards of field position last week v. Steelers).
End result: Ravens 24, Packers 20 and a happy night in the Land of Pleasant Living…