No Clay Matthews. Packer’s defense has been weak against the pass. Is this Joe Flacco’s coming out party? Possibly. While the Packer’s have struggled against the pass, they have the 5th best rushing defense allowing only 86 yards per game. They have also played running teams San Fran and Washington, which is not a good sign for the Ravens. The key to a Ravens win will be them establishing the run game and allowing Flacco to throw comportable intermediate passes while moving the chains and keeping Rodgers off the field.
Offensively, the Ravens need to use the absence of Clay Matthews to their advantage. Instead of chipping and doubling him, they can now focus on blocking the front 3, especially BJ Raji on passing and run plays. No Clay Matthews will force Raji and AJ Hawk to cover more ground and be much stricter on their generally looser play. The Offensive line needs to put together a good game and block the 3-4 with more confidence knowing they won’t have Matthews playing the cut back and causing havoc on runs to his side. If they can establish the run, expect the intermediate routes to open as the 4 linebackers will have to cheat towards the line of scrimmage. This could mean a big day for Ed Dickson/Dallas Clark across the middle at tight end or slot receivers Brandon Stokley/Marlon Brown. The check down to Ray Rice/Pierce will likely be monitored closely. The Packers secondary has been challenged only by AJ Green this year, who they frequently doubled up on. Mega Tron sat out last week in their Win vs Detriot, and now is time for Torrey Smith to prove he is an elite WR. The Packer’s secondary is very good, especially corners Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, but I see them playing a lot of man to man on the outsides, which should allow Torrey Smith and his speed to get open on underneath and crossing routes. The play action should get him a few looks down the field as well.
Defensively, the front 5 will need to put pressure on Rodgers. The secondary has been improving every week, but after Peyton Manning in week 1, they have seen Weeden, Schaub, Manuel, and Tannehill, no one even close to being a top 10 QB. Even with a banged up offensive line, Rodgers will produce because of the talent on the outside. Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, and Jermichael Finley are all capable of spreading the field and racking up yards after the catch. They have also been able to rush the ball, 141 yards per game which ranks them 5th. They enter week 6 having the 4th best passing and 5th best rushing offenses in the league. With most defenses playing 7 in the box against the Packers 3WR 1 TE look, running backs James Starks, Eddy Lacy, and Jonathan Franklin have all put together solid rushing games. Starks is out, so the bruiser Eddy Lacy will see most of the snaps. The front 7 should be able to hold the run off, but I see the Ravens playing more of a 4-3 or 4-2 defense for most the game to help with the pass. The linebackers will have a hard time keeping up the the Green Bay receivers, so there will be a lot of pressure on nickel and dime corners Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown. The safeties will need to be on top of their game, and I suspect Rodgers already has picked targets to go after. My guess is the Strong Safties Matt Ihedigbo and rookie Matt Elam. Also the slot corners will have to deal with Randall Cobb running through the middle of the field. This is not a favorable matchup for the Ravens here.
Being at home is a huge advantage for the Ravens and the crowd noise should help slow down Rodgers and the crew. Defense is the key, and pressure from Suggs and Dumervile should make this a game. Flacco needs to put together a solid mix of run and intermediate passes to move the chains and keep Rodgers off the field.
I see this being a close one 27- 23 Packers in a nail bitter after Flacco can’t complete a 4th down pass in GB territory.