M&T Bank Stadium: Where NFC Teams Go to DiePosted:Oct 11th, 2013 3:17 pm
It's never easy to win on the road in the NFL. Under Mike McCarthy, the Packers have been better than most. But after dropping their first two away from home, the task gets even tougher on Sunday, when the Pack visits the Super Bowl champs and tries to break a ten game losing streak for NFC teams at M&T Bank Stadium.
These are not your older brother's Ravens. They look a lot different without the likes of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin. But they'll still provide a formidable test, because they still boast a punishing defense that gets to the quarterback frequently. The status of massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata bears watching. He missed practice with a hip injury--if he can't go it will make things a bit easier for the Pack's offense.
Both teams are led by 20-million dollar arms. Both Rodgers and Flacco got paid in the offseason, and Rodgers is off to a better start. Flacco's been hindered b the lack of playmakers. The team didn't replace Boldin and lost sure handed tight end Dennis Pitta in training camp. So Flacco's been forcing the ball to his favorite target Torrey Smith. They might get back Jacoby Jones, who's missed the past few games, but the receivng corps is still short-handed.
The Ravens offense should revolve around Ray Rice, but coordinator Jim Caldwell sometimes forgets he's back there and gets a little pass-happy. Without Clay Matthews to chase the immobile Flacco, he may be even more tempted to drop Flacco back early and often. Nick Perry and Mike Neal will need to provide the pass rush (and stay healthy) while Matthews' thumb heals. There's not much depth behind them. The Ravens' offensive line has been terrible so far and will plug in newly acquired left tackle Eugene Monroe at left tackle. Getting Flacco off his spot is mandatory.
Meanwhile, the Pack has been stingy against the run, fifth in the league in run defense, and will be tested by Rice. He excels at home and is just as dangerous in the passing game as he is when he runs it. With Matthews and Brad Jones out, it's safe to say the Ravens will be able to move the ball.
Offensively, Green Bay should be able to get things done. The Ravens are a work in progress on this side of the ball. They stopped the Dolphins on the ground last week, but in previous weeks teams ran wild on them. Their pass rush is still strong, but their secondary is average and susceptible against high powered QBs--like Rodgers.
In two home games this season, the Ravens have yet to surrender a touchdown. Of course they've faced Brandon Weeden (who lost his starting job but then won it back thanks to injury) and Matt Schaub (who no longer looks much like a starting quarterback). The Packers will test them in ways they have yet to be tested. Their other two games have been against the Bills and Dolphins--both with young, untested QBs.
The Packers are three point favorites because they're playing better on both sides of the ball this season. It will likely be a shootout and turnovers could turn the game one way or the other, but it feels like the Pack will break the NFC curse in Baltimore and score their first road win of the year.
Packers 31 Ravens 27
Reminder: I'll be at the Park Tavern in St. Louis Park this Sunday for the game. If you come, walk through the bowling alley, to the 11th frame bar in back. That's where we'll be. As usual, great food and drink specials, prizes and a chance to buy your very own "The Head Cheese" t-shirt. Hope to see you there!