Packers vs. Ravens: Critical Matchups That Will Determine Outcome
A couple of NFL heavyweights are preparing for a critical game early in the 2013 season, as the Green Bay Packers head to Baltimore to take on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6.
Green Bay enters the game at 2-2, and a loss would put the Packers in a tough spot in the NFC North. The Chicago Bears notched their fourth victory of the season on Thursday Night Football, meaning Green Bay would be one-and-a-half games behind its divisional rivals.
Baltimore, on the other hand, is in position to stay atop the AFC North with a win, entering the game in a tie for first place at 3-2.
After getting hammered by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to open the season, the Ravens have bounced back nicely, winning three of their next four games.
There are many intriguing matchups to keep an eye on during this game, but a few stand out as potential game-changers. These are the battles that will determine the outcome of this game.
Baltimore's Defensive Line vs. Green Bay's Offensive Line
Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 11 times already in four games, and he will likely be under constant pressure this Sunday at Baltimore.
The Ravens have sacked opposing quarterbacks 19 times this year. The combination of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil off the edges has proven to be extremely profitable for Baltimore, as the duo has tallied 10 sacks thus far.
Suggs, in particular, has been unstoppable. His seven sacks on the season ranks No. 4 in the NFL, and he's logged at least one sack in all five games this season. It appears his Achilles injury is completely behind him, and if he continues playing like this, he'll be in line to win his second league Defensive Player of the Year award this year.
Rodgers isn't the only man who will be influenced by Baltimore's defensive line either.
Rookie running back Eddie Lacy had a breakout game in Week 5, totaling 97 yards, but he'll likely find running lanes tough to come by this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens allow just 3.4 yards per carry to opposing running backs, which ranks No. 5 in the league, and Baltimore has allowed just one rushing touchdown all year long.
If Green Bay has any chance of winning this game on the road, then its offensive line must control the line of scrimmage while Rodgers and his offense operates. Otherwise, Baltimore's front four will wreak havoc up front.
Ray Rice vs. Green Bay's Linebacking Corps
Clay Matthews and Brad Jones are both out of this game with injuries, and they will certainly be missed.
Matthews is a relentless worker on the edge who has been effective against the run and the pass this year, and Jones led the team in tackles from his inside linebacker spot before he went out with a hamstring injury.
With Matthews out, it'll be up to Nick Perry and Mike Neal to bring pressure on passing downs and hold down the edges against the run.
Jamari Lattimore will start instead of Jones. He's a third-year pro who went undrafted out of Middle Tennessee State, where he was a defensive end. He's no match for Rice, whether he's carrying the ball or making plays in the passing game.
Rice is coming off a huge bounce-back performance against the Miami Dolphins. He totaled 102 yards and two touchdowns last weekend after being essentially shut out by the Buffalo Bills the week before.
Look for the Ravens to feed Rice early and often, and if Green Bay's decimated linebacking corps can't keep him from making big plays, then he could easily take the game over.
Green Bay's Receivers vs. Baltimore's Defensive Secondary
Despite Baltimore's edge in the previous two matchups, the Packers can win this game on the road if Rodgers and his receivers have a huge game passing the ball.
The Ravens aren't immune to getting burned by potent aerial assaults either. Denver absolutely shredded this unit in Week 1 to the tune of 462 passing yards and seven touchdowns, and Ryan Tannehill passed for 307 yards in a losing cause last weekend.
Which team will win?
Cornerback Lardarius Webb is among the league's best, but cornerback Jimmy Smith and safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam, who is a rookie, are less effective.
The Packers have as talented a group of receivers as any team in the league.
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