Ravens v. Packers (-3)
Over/Under @ 49
M&T Bank Stadium
The (3-2) Baltimore Ravens will try to advance to (4-2) on the season when they host the (2-2) Green Bay Packers tomorrow at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Packers led by Aaron Rodgers, bring to The Land of Pleasant Living the league’s 3rd ranked offense averaging 29.3 points per game. Head coach and offensive maestro Mike McCarthy likes to spread out opposing defenses with an impressive arsenal of pass catchers that include WR’s Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson to go with their gifted tight end Jermichael Finley. Once spread out the Pack likes to run it primarily from shotgun formation with rookie Eddie Lacy.
Defensively the Packers are ranked 19th overall and 26th against the pass. They’ve sacked opposing quarterbacks 12 times with Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford being a victim 5 times last week in the Packers 22-9 victory at Lambeau Field. However, the player who attracts the most attention in defensive coordinator Dom Caper’s unit is Clay Matthews who will miss tomorrow’s game and as many as four games for the Pack.
Linebacker Nick Perry is a very capable playmaker and is someone that Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will have to account for. The Packers also field a stout defensive front that tips the scales at exactly one-half ton led by B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Jonny Jolly, the anchors in Green Bay’s 5th ranked rushing defense.
With all that said, the Packers are an offensive team first and their success is heavily predicated upon the performance of Mr. Rodgers.
The Ravens on the other hand are a team still in search of an identity. Things are slowly beginning to take shape but their development offensively has been severely hamstrung by one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. John Harbaugh has indicated that newly acquired tackle Eugene Monroe will get the nod at left tackle tomorrow and the team is hopeful that the move will ignite the offensive front and restore their effectiveness to the levels of their 2012 postseason run.
Defensively the Ravens front seven is really beginning to shape up well yet ironically, their impressive play and the associated pressure they are placing on opposing quarterbacks hasn’t translated into stronger play from a potentially stingy secondary.
Jimmy Smith has struggled at times and rookie safety Matt Elam has looked lost on occasion. They will need to step it up against a very solid receiving corps that will play to the whistle knowing that their elusive quarterback has an uncanny ability to keep plays alive and throw accurately on the run.
In that regard the front seven will need to contain Rodgers and be mindful of his clever cadence that is effective in drawing penalties and inviting free shots down the field. That weapon however, should be mitigated by one of the league’s best 12th-men down at The Bank.
When The Packers Have the Ball
If the Packers want to beat the Ravens on the ground, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will likely say, “Have at it!” Eddie Lacy was impressive with yards after contact last week against a Lions defense that often failed to wrap up. The Ravens will need to be sure tacklers against a rushing offense that has averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
Expect the Ravens to be in a nickel base defense most of the game and that will require the edge setters on defense to contain and for the rotation of Haloti Ngata, Art Jones, Chris Canty, Brandon Williams and possibly Marcus Spears to be stout at the point of attack while allowing Daryl Smith and the combo of Josh Bynes and Arthur Brown to clean up Lacy.
Lardarius Webb is likely to mark Randall Cobb while Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham will share duties shadowing Jones and Nelson. The potentially troublesome match up is Smith on the crafty Nelson. How the Ravens defend Finley will be interesting as well and that could sway Pees to use Brown more than Bynes who struggles in coverage.
The game up front will be interesting to watch. In four games, despite his elusiveness, Rodgers has been sacked 11 times compared to 14 sacks for Joe Flacco in his 5 starts. The Ravens were very effective getting to the quarterback with 4 rushers against the Dolphins (5 sacks) and if they can approach that kind of success on Sunday it will heavily tip the flow of the game.
When the Ravens Have the Ball
The Packers defense attacks the line of scrimmage particularly on first down, selling out to stop the run. Teams have often looked to establish the run partly as a defensive mechanism to keep the ball away from Rodgers. This attack mode has worked effectively for Dom Capers’ unit.
To counter the Ravens should look to set up the run with the pass. The Packers’ secondary struggles, particularly in the area just beyond the linebacker-drops and in front of the safeties. Torrey Smith torched the Dolphins over the middle while adding in YAC. Expect more of the same on Sunday. Caldwell might also use Ray Rice out of the backfield more often, perhaps as a decoy to clear more traffic out of the middle of the field.
Last week against the Lions the Packers gave up 262 yards passing to Matthew Stafford and that was without Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, both out with injuries. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Anquan Boldin had 208 receiving yards. To put that in perspective, in his four games since, Boldin has had a TOTAL of 185 yards receiving, clearly an indictment of the Packers’ secondary (Swiss Cheese anyone?) Also keep in mind that the Packers gave up 114 yards on 8 catches to the Lions’ tight ends last week. Might Sunday be a coming out party for Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark?
Last Week: 1-0 v. Winner, 1-0 v. Spread
Season Total: 2-3 v. Winner, 2-3 v. Spread
The home cooking and a monster game from Joe Flacco are too much for the Packers to overcome, even for their very capable gunslinger.