This will be another test for the Baltimore Ravens. If the Ravens can find some consistency in all three phases of the game, they will have a good chance of winning today. Consistency, nevertheless, has been the 2013 Baltimore Ravens’ kryptonite.
Here are this week’s two major plotlines.
After getting shredded for 445 passing yards in week one against the Denver Broncos, the Ravens face a very similar offense in the Green Bay Packers. Like the Broncos, the Packers employ two outstanding receivers on the outside, a shifty and slashing slot receiver, and a unique tight end. Below is a chart comparing the statistics of the skill positions of the Packers and the Broncos.
According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers takes more shots down the field than Manning. Rodgers has 200 more yards than Manning of total passing yards coming from passes 20 or more yards downfield (Rodgers has 505 yards in one less game than Manning, who has 306). What this means is that the Packers have gained more yards on plays that take a longer time to develop.
On the other side of the coin, each of the receivers of the Packers average a high amount of yards after the catch (YAC). Rodgers is known for his quick release which gets the ball to his receivers in space and allows them to make plays.
In many ways, it is a pick your poison situation for the Ravens. If the Ravens can contain Rodgers keeping him in the pocket, while putting pressure on him, while holding the coverage in the secondary just a hair longer through disruption of the receivers’ routes, they may have a chance. Um, that’s a long list.
After writing off the defense after the Denver debacle, then declaring their greatness against the Houston Texans, then putting the brakes on their development after the Buffalo Bill bungle, I think we need to see more consistency (there’s that word again) from the defense. You are not going to shutdown Rodgers, but you hope to contain him a bit more than they “contained” Manning.
It is a huge task this week. Will the front seven work in one accord with the secondary? It is imperative this week.
A Healing Offense Takes On a Injury-Riddled Defense
Might this be the week that we see all of the patchwork pieces of the Ravens offense together since the preseason? With Brandon Stokley on the inactive list, the Ravens will have Torrey Smith, Deonte Thompson, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, and Marlon Brown. Include tight ends Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson and this is the most attractive set of offensive weapons Flacco has had to utilize this season. Moreover, we get the Raven debut of Eugene Monroe at left tackle (Bryant McKinnie is inactive today).
This convergence of offensive health comes at a time when the Packers are dealing with injuries to their defense. They will be without disruptive pass rusher and playmaker Clay Matthews, and stout inside linebacker Brad Jones—two key players from their front seven.
Has the inconsistent (a variation of the word of the day) Ravens’ offense caught a break? I think they have caught a break, and I think we witness a big uptick in their production today.
Unsung Player to Watch, aka the “Corey Graham 2012 Postseason Award”
In lieu of a prediction of the score of the game, I will pick a Raven player each week that I think will have an impact on the game. I won’t pick an obvious player (like Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, etc.), but a player that flies a bit under the radar. Think of this as the “Corey Graham 2012 Postseason Award.” Who would have predicted that Graham would have been last year’s postseason-player-of-the-game in Denver?
I have struck out every week while making this prediction, but I still like trying to predict if there is a player we didn’t expect would make a difference, all of a sudden makes a difference. I like the underdog quality of this prediction.
This week I am going with Jimmy Smith. He has been the personification of inconsistency, but within that inconsistency I have seen a steady increase in his confidence and technique (he is turning for the ball with more regularity). His physicality and speed will be utilized to help disrupt the timing of the Packer offense.