1. Can the Baltimore Ravens avoid the turnover bug against Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson?
Woodson is a strong candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors with seven interceptions and four forced fumbles. He’s been particularly impactful lately with three interceptions and three forced fumbles during the past three games. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said that he’ll remain aware of Woodson’s playmaking presence Monday night. "He’s a cagey veteran," wide receiver Mark Clayton said of Woodson. "He looks fast, he looks fresh after 12 years in this league. We know that he’s seen a lot, and when you’ve seen a lot, you have great anticipation. Anticipation is so huge in this game, especially defensively because you react to everything." The Ravens have done a good job of not letting Pro Bowl cornerbacks affect their game plans, including a successful previous matchup earlier this season against Denver Broncos shutdown corner Champ Bailey.
2. Will Ray Rice be able to control the game?
The Ravens are squaring off against the fourth-ranked run defense and the top-ranked overall defense in the NFL. However, Rice is a formidable threat as he has totaled 1,126 yards from scrimmage to average 140.7 yards of total offense per game during the past two months. His production represents nearly 50 percent of the offensive output during that span. Rice’s impact allows the Ravens to have a tough checkdown presence for Flacco to go to when things break down or on designed swing passes, screens and as a slot receiver.
3. Will the Ravens be able to harass Aaron Rodgers?
Yes, the Packers quarterback has been sacked 44 times for the most in the league with nine more sacks endured than Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. However, he has only been sacked a few times in the last two weeks. During that stretch, the Ravens haven’t recorded a single sack. And without Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Ravens haven’t been able to generate much of a pass rush. With lots of time, Rodgers could pick apart the secondary by targeting Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.
4. Can the Ravens capitalize?
Baltimore has averaged two turnovers per game defensively over the past three weeks. However, that hasn’t always translated into easy points. The Ravens have scored a total of 19 points off of those turnovers. They look out of sync in the red zone, much to the displeasure of emotional wide receiver Derrick Mason.
5. Can the Ravens exploit the absence of Al Harris?
With the veteran cornerback out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Ravens could target his replacement, Tramon Williams. Williams is a much more preferable option than going after Woodson. The Ravens could look to Clayton, who caught seven passes for 129 yards against the Steelers. Or they could look to Mason. Mason has averaged five receptions and 80 yards in his previous four games against the Packers with four touchdowns scored.
Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Packers MLB Nick Barnett
Rice’s elusiveness and moves are a major factor for the Ravens’ running game. He runs with surprising power for his size, but it’s his lightning-quick cuts that have separated him from the pack of all-purpose runners around the league. He’s on a bit of a roll, too, rushing for at least 70 yards in five of the past six games and converting a key fourth down to set up the game-tying field goal against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers counter with the fourth-ranked run defense, allowing 89.1 yards per contest. Barnett is a big part of that effort, recording 83 tackles to lead the team. He also ranks third on the Packers with three sacks. Barnett is an athletic, active tackler who stands a chance of sticking with Rice in the open field. It should be an intriguing matchup between two players on the top of their respective games.
Baltimore Ravens PR Chris Carr vs. Packers’ punt team
Chris Carr had been quiet all season long until the Ravens’ 20-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was his breakout game of a subpar season. Carr averaged 14.2 yards per punt return last Sunday night, aggressively running up to catch short punts. His north-south style is just what the coaches have been looking for from him ever since he was signed to a two-year, $5 million contract during the offseason. While Carr has been a disappointment as a return man overall with way too many fair catches, he only called for one fair catch against the Steelers. The Packers are extremely vulnerable in punt coverage, ranking 28th overall with an average of 11.5 yards per punt return. This is the kind of game where field position should be critical.
THREE DOWNS WITH …
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco
1. On playing in cold weather: "The coldest game I’ve probably played in was sometime last year, either the Washington game or one of the Pittsburgh games, whatever was the coldest. That never really affected me. I like playing in the cold. Well, I don’t know if I like playing in the cold. But like I said, I don’t know if it’s that big of a deal.”
2. On being careful throwing around Packers cornerback Charles Woodson: “I think so. He’s a guy that’s played well all year. He’s come out and has shown that he can be around the ball and make tackles and make plays in the secondary. So, he’s a guy that we’ll be aware of, and we’ll do what we have to do to make sure we account for him.”
3. On the Packers’ 3-4 defense: "I think they take after Pittsburgh a little bit. They’ve got a bunch of athletic guys on their defense. They’ve got young guys on the outside, and they’ve played well the last handful of games. We’ve got to be ready to go in there and have those guys come out and play aggressive. It’s going to be a physical game, just like the last couple of weeks, and we’ve got to be ready for it.”
THREE DOWNS WITH …
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
1. On the Packers’ pass protection: "Well, I think we started to do some of the things that we feel we’re capable of doing, as far as protecting and getting the ball out quickly. I think it’s a combination of getting the ball out quickly, feeling comfortable with the protections called and executing those protections as well as we possibly can. So, those three things combined have allowed us to decrease those number of sacks the last couple of weeks.”
2. On the home-field advantage at Lambeau Field: "Well, we like to think that we have at least some sort of small advantage. A lot of us are from different places, myself being from California. In high school, junior college and Cal, they weren’t playing in cold weather, but I think when you live in Green Bay for an extended period of time, you just get used to dealing with it.
“I think you’re better at dealing with the cold weather, because you have to live in it, and shovel your driveway in it, and be outside in it from time to time. So I think you just get a little bit better at dealing with the cold weather, and I think that’s the slight advantage that we do have.”
3. On the Ravens’ defense: “Well, communication on third down I think is very important. Their scheme is very intricate, and a lot of their guys have played in it for a number of years. Obviously, Ray Lewis does a great job of diagnosing plays and reacting and getting those guys to play with a great passion. And I think you have to be good on first and second down. That is probably the main key, so you put yourself in third-and-more-manageable situations.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.