When the ball gets kicked off on Sunday at 1:05PM, two of the last three last Super Bowl champions will go at it. The Packers come to Baltimore to face the Ravens for just the second time ever. The other meeting was when the Baltimore demolished Green Bay (48-3) late in the 2005 season.
For the record, I believe Aaron Rodgers is the best player in football. That said, football is a team game. But there are a select group of individuals (of which Rodgers is one) that can take a game over.
Luckily for the Ravens, they have a few of their own who can dominate a game. The first one that comes to mind is the man who helped put the Dolphins away last week: Terrell Suggs.
Wouldn’t you know it? Suggs will be rushing Rodgers’ blind side on Sunday.
That entertaining match-up aside, here are five keys the Ravens should dial into when facing the Packers this week.
1) Don’t get discouraged
It may sound simple, but Rodgers and company will make plays. When they’re on, they’re one of the top passing units in the league. They run a lot of unusual formations and Rodgers distributes the ball to as many different receivers as any quarterback in the game.
But the Ravens’ defense is versatile too. They have the personnel to beat the Packers’ offense, without a doubt. Besides, Baltimore is at home, where they’ve won 18 of their last 20 games (playoffs included).
2) Contain Cobb
If you haven’t seen Randall Cobb play football, you’re missing out. He’s truly an elite talent, even among NFL players. In four games this season, Cobb is averaging 13.9 yards per touch (25 receptions, four rushes). He’s a nightmare matchup for linebackers and I don’t think defensive backs like seeing him in the open field.
Fortunately for the Ravens, Dean Pees is an excellent defensive coordinator. But coming up with schemes and executing them are two different things. Baltimore defenders must limit the yardage Cobb accumulates.
3) Stay focused
Green Bay is without their best pass-rusher (Clay Matthews, out with a broken thumb). On the flipside the Packers’ pass protection, while improved, is certainly susceptible to the kind of pressure the Ravens bring.
With a rivalry game next week (at Pittsburgh) and their bye week after that, it would behoove the Ravens to block out all distractions and be 100 percent keyed in against the Packers. If not, we could see a repeat of Week 1.
4) Win time of possession
It’s simple: If Baltimore’s offense is on the field, Green Bay’s isn’t.
If the Ravens can win the time of possession stat, they accomplish three important tasks:
A) Keep Rodgers off the field
B) Give the defense a rest
C) Give the offense more time to gel
When you dictate tempo and stay on schedule in terms of your down and distance, you have an excellent chance to win. When tempo is dictated to you, you’re playing the other team’s game and are fighting an uphill battle.
Although the Ravens are at home, they’re 3-point underdogs and can ill-afford to lose a game right now, especially considering how well Cincinnati is playing.
5) Sustain momentum in run game
Baltimore out-rushed Miami (133-22) after being out-rushed by Buffalo (203-24) the week prior. That’s a 290-yard difference in the span of one week.
Ray Rice, despite a fumble, scored two rushing touchdowns. Bernard Pierce ripped off a nice 28-yard run late in the game to help Baltimore get out of the shadow of its own end zone. Vonta Leach, as he’s so often done, made multiple key blocks to help spring Rice and Pierce.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, the Packers boast the fifth-best run defense in football, allowing just 86 rushing yards per game. Newly acquired offensive tackle Eugene Monroe looks to make his first appearance as a Raven on Sunday. During five seasons in Jacksonville, Monroe anchored the offensive line that blocked for Maurice Jones-Drew, so he’s used to blocking for a running back like Rice.
This should be a good one.
Prediction: Ravens 28, Packers 27