Dissecting Most Crucial Matchups in the Packers' Week 6 Contest with the Ravens

Bob FoxContributor IOctober 11, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half at Candlestick Park on September 8, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The 49ers defeated the Packers 34-28.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

If one takes a look at the NFL team statistics before the game on Sunday between the 2-2 Green Bay Packers and the 3-2 Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, the Packers appear to have quite an edge, especially offensively.

The Packers are ranked third in total offense in the NFL currently, which includes ranking fourth in passing offense and fifth in rushing offense.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are only ranked 21st in total offense—14th in passing offense and 26th in rushing offense.

Both Green Bay and Baltimore have won Super Bowls recently, primarily due to the play of their quarterbacks.

The Packers won Super Bowl XLV, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named Super Bowl MVP. Then this past February, quarterback Joe Flacco led the Ravens to a win in Super Bowl XLVII, when he was named Super Bowl MVP.

In the 2013 regular season so far, only Rodgers has played up to MVP standards, which is one reason for the discrepancy in offensive effectiveness between the two teams.

He has thrown nine touchdown passes versus three interceptions for 1,331 yards. That equates to 332.8 yards per game through the air. No. 12 also has a 105.5 rating.

On the other hand, Flacco has struggled this season. He has thrown five touchdown passes and seven interceptions for 1,360 yards (for 272 yards per game). No. 5 has a mediocre 70.1 quarterback rating.

On Sunday, these two quarterbacks will try to exploit the other team's pass defense.

Although the Packers are ranked 19th in total defense, they are ranked 26th in passing defense. They have been quite effective versus the run, ranking fifth.

The Ravens are ranked 14th in total defense and 16th in passing defense, while they too are stout against the run, ranking sixth.

So it appears that both Rodgers and Flacco will utilize the passing game quite often.

Rodgers will try to take advantage of a secondary that includes cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Corey Graham, as well as safeties Matt Elam and James Ihedigbo. Only Graham has a pick among that group.

Sep 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) celebrates with wide receiver James Jones (89) after scoring a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter at Candlestick Park. The San Francisco
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens only have three interceptions as a team, and inside linebacker Daryl Smith has two of them.

Rodgers will target his Big Three set of wide receivers (Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones) against the secondary of the Ravens, as well as look for tight end Jermichael Finley. Those four weapons have combined for 84 receptions for 1,188 yards and nine touchdowns.

Flacco will have limited options in terms of his receiving corps. They are led by wide receiver Torrey Smith, who has 27 catches for 556 yards and a touchdown. Marlon Brown has chipped in with 14 receptions for 150 yards and three touchdowns.

The Ravens are hoping that Jacoby Jones will be able to play this week after spraining his MCL in Week 1, while the team also just re-signed wide receiver Brandon Stokley.

Flacco has sorely missed tight end Dennis Pitta, who dislocated a hip in the preseason. Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson have not been able to fill the void in Pitta's absence. They have a combined 21 catches for 251 yards and no touchdowns.

The Ravens quarterback will be facing a secondary that is starting to get healthy and get some key players back. The Packers secondary played better last week against the Detroit Lions with the return of safety Morgan Burnett.

Slot-cornerback Casey Hayward, who has missed the entire season so far due to a hamstring injury, was back at practice on Thursday on a limited basis. He picked off six passes as a rookie last season.

Other help in the secondary comes from cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields and safeties M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian. Of that group, no one has stood out for his solid play more than Shields, who has the lone interception for the secondary and seven passes defended.

Regarding the ground game for the Packers, most experts are surprised to see the team being so effective toting the rock. They are averaging 5.3 yards a carry.

Rookie Eddie Lacy will get the bulk of the carries versus the Ravens, and he will be helped if one of the best nose tackles in the NFL, Haloti Ngata, can't play. Ngata missed his second straight practice on Thursday due to a hip injury.

Oct 6, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA;  Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) before a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens have one of the best running back/receiving back combinations in the league with Ray Rice. No. 27 just came back from a strained left hip flexor last week, and he has been less effective this year in both the running and passing games in terms of average yards gained.

He has only averaged 2.9 yards per carry on the ground (57 carries for 163 yards and three touchdowns) and only has a 4.2-yard average catching the ball (17 receptions for 72 yards).

The Packers run defense has to key on Rice in running situations. On passing downs, inside linebacker Brad Jones won't be available to cover Rice, as he is out with a hamstring injury. Right now, it looks like linebacker Jamari Lattimore might get that assignment.

When it's all said and done, the quarterback play might be the determining factor as to who wins this game on Sunday. Both Rodgers and Flacco have won and starred in the biggest game of them all in the past, but as of right now, Rodgers is the only one of the two to be playing at a high level.

We shall see if that trend continues on Sunday.


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