Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers Week 6: 5 Key Matchups
Baltimore Ravens vs Green Bay Packers Key Matchups
The Ravens moved a game above .500 with a narrow victory over the Miami Dolphins last week, while the Packers hope to put their 1-2 start in the rearview mirror as they chase another Lombardi Trophy. Both teams have hit some road bumps that have contributed to the up-and-down starts to the season.
The Ravens might finally be done with former pro-bowl tackle Bryant McKinnie, and hope former top-10 pick Eugene Monroe can provide more protection on Joe Flacco's blind side. The Packers will be without Clay Matthews for a month, and will need to dial up some fresh plays to help a defense that has struggled to make plays even with Matthews.
Meanwhile, Baltimore will continue to kick-start the rushing attack. They re-committed to Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce last week, but did not have a lot of yards to show for it, as the holes have been few and far between. They will likely try to stick to the ground again and avoid getting in a track meet with Aaron Rodgers, but have a tough test against the league's fifth-ranked rush defense.
So which matchups will determine the victor? Click along to find out.
5. WR Torrey Smith vs CB Sam Shields
Torrey Smith has been a game-breaker this season and has to be this league's most improved player. After he posted career highs with 49 catches and 855 yards in 2012, Smith is on track to surpass both of those totals by Week 10 this year.
In spite of the extra attention and targets thrown Smith's way, he has managed to post a career high in yards per reception as well, averaging 20.6 per catch. The task of slowing Smith's pace will fall on the Packers' top corner, Sam Shields. Shields has the speed (he ran a 4.26 40 at the 2010 combine) to stick with the explosive Smith, but will need to harness that speed into game day skill in order to contain the Ravens' top receiver.
4. WR Jordy Nelson vs CB Lardarius Webb
Of the NFL's top receiver-quarterback combinations, Nelson and Rodgers might have the game's best chemistry. Nelson has hauled in a ridiculous 77 percent of the balls thrown his way this year and, even though the Packers have already had their bye, is still one of the league's leaders in receiving yards.
Webb got burned for 105 yards by the Dolphins' Mike Wallace last week, and will need to do a better job containing Nelson if the Ravens are going to pull this one out.
3. OLB Terrell Suggs vs LT David Bakhtiari
Like the other NFL quarterbacks, the only way to stop Aaron Rodgers is to get him out of his comfort zone and rattle his cage in the pocket. Unlike a Peyton Manning or a Tom Brady, Rodgers has quick feet and escapability, so even with pressure, there is no guarantee of stopping the 2011 NFL MVP.
The Packers' Super Bowl chances took a serious hit when left tackle Bryan Bulaga went out for the season before it even began, and was subsequently replaced by rookie fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari waill face his biggest challenge yet in containing the red-hot Suggs. The former Defensive Player of the Year has at least a sack in every game this year, and had three in the fourth quarter last week to seal the game against the Dolphins.
2. DT B.J. Raji vs Ravens' Interior Line
The Ravens will continue to try kick-start the running game against the Packers' defensive front. After just nine attempts in the loss to the Bills, Baltimore rushed 40 times in their win against the Dolphins. While the commitment to the ground game was a step in the right direction, the execution still left something to be desired, as the team managed just 3.3 yards per rush, including 2.7 from star halfback Ray Rice.
Things will not get any easier for Baltimore against the Packers' standout rush defense, led by defensive tackle B.J. Raji. Green Bay has allowed just 86 yards per game on the ground. If they can stop Rice early and force Flacco to throw the ball 50 times like he did against the Bills, you can probably count this game as a victory for the Packers.
1. DC Dom Capers vs OC Jim Caldwell
Dom Capers is without his top playmaker, Clay Matthews, for a defense that struggled to make plays even with the former Defensive Player of the Year on the field. Jim Caldwell is fielding an underperforming offensive line that he is trying to fix on the fly with the rare NFL midseason trade.
Capers will try to scheme around the loss of Matthews, who had three sacks and two forced fumbles in four games. The Packers have to get pressure on Joe Flacco to help out their 26th-ranked pass defense, which has been the weak link of their season thus far. With Matthews out, expect to see more pressure from Nick Perry and A.J. Hawk, as well as some safety blitzes from M.D. Jennings.
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens will likely start Eugene Monroe now that he has had some time to digest the playbook, at left tackle and bench disappointing veteran Bryant McKinnie. McKinnie has looked slow and out of shape, as he has been beaten around the edge time and again this season.
The report on Monroe is that he has good feet and will be an improvement as a pass blocker, but is not a mauler in the rushing game, where the Ravens have struggled as well. Caldwell will have to hope that Monroe is a chemistry improvement, and that the Ravens' O-Line can block better as a unit to get Rice and Pierce going.
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