One of the beautiful things about being a part of Sports Media 101 is the coverage we have of so many professional sports teams and today we have taken advantage of that as we get an inside scoop on the Baltimore Ravens week six opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
BR101: With Clay Matthews out for a month, who and what can this defense do to overcome his absence?
I'd like to first note that even though reports are swirling that Matthews is out for a month, the Packers have not confirmed anything yet regarding his injury and if he can play through it. We'll know more about this as the week goes on, but the defense will continue to play the same style under defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Losing Matthews is tough to overcome, but the Packers defense was able to generate five sacks in Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions (the Lions' offensive line had only allowed three sacks total in the first four games). Outside linebackers and rush-ends Nick Perry and Mike Neal are solid contributors and I wouldn't expect the Packers to dial-down the pressure because no. 52 isn't hovering around the line of scrimmage.
BR101: Aaron Rodgers is by far one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but last week we saw the Detroit Lions keep him from throwing multiple touchdowns. Not to discount the win, but we wanted to double check (haha, see what we did there?) what the Lions did to slow down the Packers potent passing game?
Actually, in my honest opinion, from the point of execution, Rodgers and the offense was excellent. Rodgers completed 67% of his passes, the offensive line only allowed one sack and rookie Eddie Lacy was one-yard short of becoming the third different Packers running back to rush for 100 yards in a game this season. The reason why the Lions "kept" the Packers out of the endzone was because of poor play-calling and redzone production. When the Packers get into the redzone, it doesn't seem like this team likes to run the ball and it is clearly hurting their touchdown production. The Packer are scoring touchdowns on 56.3% of their redzone opportunities and that percentage is way down from last season's 68.5% touchdown percentage. If the Packers can figure out their redzone situation, they will get into the endzone quite frequently from here on out.
BR101: Green Bay seems to have a running game for the first time in a while with Eddie Lacy, how has that changed what we normally see from the Packers offensively?
The Packers have always tried to run the football under Mike McCarthy's watch but they have been so unsuccessful in doing so in the previous three seasons. The difference this season is not only that Lacy is a special talent, but the offensive line has greatly improved. The Packers upgraded at left tackle from Marshall Newhouse to rookie David Bakhtiari and upgraded at center from veteran Jeff Saturday to the underrated Evan Dietrich-Smith. Think about it, in the last three games, three different running backs (James Starks, Johnathan Franklin, Lacy) have led the Packers in rushing, so the production in the run game has to correlate with the improvement up front. Left guard Josh Sitton is one of the NFL's best offensive linemen and right guard T.J. Lang isn't so bad either. A great running game is a quarterback's best friend and as the season goes on, opposing defensive units will continue to have trouble stopping the Packers offense.
BR101: If the Baltimore Ravens are going to win this game, they are going to have to do what?
If the Ravens win this game, it has to be because of the play of quarterback Joe Flacco. There is a reason why the Ravens are paying him $120 million over the next six years and it is because he needs to lead the Ravens to wins over teams like the Packers. The Packers passing defense has been torched quite a bit this season and the reigning Super Bowl MVP has to earn his paycheck and take advantage of the Packers secondary if they are going to win. It's been ugly for Flacco throughout the season, but with Ray Rice getting healthy and closer to his old self, Flacco has to keep the Packers defense on their heels with a balanced attack.
BR101: Final Prediction?
Ravens 27, Packers 26. Green Bay needs to take some notes from the NFL opener when the Broncos shelled the Ravens defense for 49 points. Baltimore is clearly missing Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams, Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe, as the defense has allowed at least 23 points in the last two weeks to the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, but playing at home will be a tremendous key to victory for Baltimore. The Packers offense has similar capabilities and playmakers as the Broncos do, but it's hard to ignore the poor touchdown production on offense in the redzone this season. The Packers should be the favorites to win this game, but Baltimore's defensive backs are extremely physical at the line of scrimmage. Last time the Packers wide receivers were up against a physical defensive secondary was in week three at Cincinnati against the Ravens' AFC North-rival Bengals, as the Bengals defensive secondary intercepted two of Aaron Rodgers' passes in the game en route to a 34-30 win. Packers rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari will have a hard time blocking star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs as well, as the veteran will sure get the best out of the rookie. On defense, losing Matthews will hurt the Packers, mainly because he is their best linebacker at defending the run and Ravens running back Ray Rice is getting back to normal. The Packers will likely zero in on the stopping Rice and make Flacco beat their defense in the air. This is a prime opportunity for Flacco to get back on track and take advantage of a poor Packers defensive secondary. Timing is everything in the NFL and the timing is just right for Baltimore this weekend.
Ravens101 would like to thank Sean for taking the time to give the inside scoop on the Packers and our editor Josh Michael is giving the inside scoop on the Ravens for Packers101 tomorrow, so be sure to check it out!
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