There’s a lot of interesting stats at play this week as Brett Hundley tries to keep the team in the playoff hunt.
The Raven Unbalanced Offense
The Ravens offense is dead last in the league in passing yards per game (166), but has a top 10 rushing attack (121), combining to make them the 30th ranked overall offense. This is a good thing for the Packers who, behind the emergence of Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez, have looked pretty strong against the run. They Packers D has struggled far more against the pass. Flacco has thrown 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and is dead last in the NFL at average yards per attempt (5.3). Jeremy Maclin has been their top receiver and Mike Wallace, with only 20 catches, looks like a situational player at this point. Even with a banged up secondary, the Packers should be able to keep that under control. There’l be some keystone cops coverage bloopers to be sure, but it shouldn’t be insurmountable.
The Ravens Unbalanced Defense
On defense, the Ravens are the opposite of their offense: they have the number 2 passing defense in the league (185 yards allowed per game), but the 28th overall rushing defense (126), making them the 6th best defense in the league. They had a lot of success early in the year, attacking the Browns QBs and Andy Dalton in weeks 1 and 2, coming up with 7 sacks and 8 interceptions. They will probably try to attack Hundley the same way – they also did this in pressuring Miami’s Matt Moore into a multi-pick game. This could be a good thing for the Packers. Even though Brett Hundley has made big strides, he’s not ready to put a team on his back and attempt to pass to victory. He’s just starting to build a rapport with Davante, but he needs to et through his progressions quicker and get balls further in front of his receivers or it’s going to be a pick party. If the Ravens focus on attacking the QB, the run game could really get going. This is a week where guys like Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones could probably do a lot of damage if they were playing. Jamaal Williams ran strong last week and could be a tone-setter in a cold weather game. I’m not sure the Ravens pass rushers are ready to shut down a power runner like Williams.
Scheduling and Health
The Ravens are coming off a bye, but with an unfamiliar opponent who is revamping its offense and will be missing its top backs, the extra time probably won’t help them in the way of film study. It will help them in the health department where their defensive leader Jimmy Williams missed practice time this week for nagging achilles injury but Ronnie Stanley, their left tackle, has been given a doubtful designation with a concussion. The Packers, meanwhile will be without Morgan Burnett, which can really lead to missed calls and blown assignments. Oh, and their top two backs are out.
Emotion and Momentum
Health aside, this may be a fortunate schedule for the Packers. After getting a nice win on the road last week, they get to come home with the start of a win streak. They beat a bad team on the road last week and face a less bad team at home this week. If they can raise the bar a little, they can really put some momentum together. Playing slightly better teams each week is a good way to try to stack success and build momentum. That shouldn’t be underestimated (See 2010, 2013, and 2014). I don’t think Rodgers is coming back this year, but he did return to the practice field this week to run around and that really seemed to get people riled up and excited. I think Aaron knows exactly what he’s doing with stuff like that and I think it’s great to give the team some hope – it will push them to play harder than they would if they thought it was hopeless.
The Ravens blew out the Dolphins a couple weeks ago with a huge defensive showing. However, a month ago, they lost at home to the Bears (even thought the Bears blew a 14 point lead in the 4th quarter). I’m hanging my faith on the latter performance. I think the Packers run game will pound hard early – potentially like their game plan against the Saints (which included running from Hundley). It’ll just be moving at a little slower pace with a bruiser like WIlliams at HB1 instead of a pinball like Jones. Jamaal will struggle to get much more than 4 ypc, but his pounding will prove effective. When the Ravens have the ball, I’m expecting their best effort. I beleive that is a low cieling, but Flacco is a veteran QB and the Packers have a way of making veteran QBs look good (especially when Burnett is on the sidelines). Joe Flacco will have more touchdowns than interceptions this week, but the play action won’t be as effective with the Packers line slowing down the Ravens run game. Matthews should get a sack against a backuo LT. Blake Martinez gets back to double-digit tackles this week as the defense slows down the bad guys just enough.
Packers 23, Ravens 20