Stopping Rodgers Is The Key: Ravens vs Packers
Last week, the 3-2 Baltimore Ravens were on the road against the Miami Dolphins and were able to eek out a 26-23 victory on a Justin Tucker field goal with under two minutes left in the game. This week, the Ravens will wear their black alternate jerseys and host the 2-2 Green Bay Packers who are coming off a 22-9 victory over the Detroit Lions.
1. Stopping Aaron Rodgers
Going up against the Ravens defense this week will be one of the best quarterbacks in the league: Aaron Rodgers.
Through four games, Rodgers ranks third in the league in passing yards per game (333), fifth in passer rating (105.5), seventh in completion percentage (66.4), third in yards per attempt (8.76), and has the longest completed pass (83 yards). He also has the Packers offense averaging 29.5 points per game which is third best in the league.
Short, quick passes are a staple of the Packers offense as it allows Rodgers to get the ball out fast behind a young, improving offensive line. Another thing that the Packers like to do on offense are play-action passes which is usually where they will take their shots deep.
A division rival of the Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals, set a blueprint for how the stop the Packers offense. The Bengals, knowing the Packers like quick passes, got pressure fast and had their defensive linemen ready to bat down passes at the line-of-scrimmage. Their defensive linemen were able to knock down three passes at the line and had eight quarterbacks hits and four sacks. This pressure held Rodgers to 244 yards going 26-of-43 with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Another thing that they will have to look out for is Rodgers tucking the ball and running. His running ability isn’t talked about much due to the duel-threat quarterbacks in league, but if you give Rodgers room to run, he will take it and make you pay.
If the Ravens are to win this game, they will need to follow this blueprint on how to stop Rodgers getting quick pressure and having defensive linemen ready to knock passes down at the line.
2. Early Points
For the entire season, the Ravens offense has struggled putting up points in the first half of games as the offense is averaging a putrid 6.6 first half points so far this season. If you take away week one, where the offense scored 17 points, the offense is averaging four first half points.
In the second half of games, the offense has come together and scored 14 points per game including a season best 20 last week against the Dolphins.
When you look at these stats, it is no surprise that the Ravens are only 3-2 at this point in the season. No team can survive averaging 6.6 points in the first half.
One way to fix this problem is not settle for field goals. This has been a problem for the Ravens for years, once they get in field goal range, their play calling becomes less aggressive and more conservative. Play calling shouldn’t change much once you get in field goal range. Yes, some plays leave the playbook but nothing major should change.
In the Packers’ two losses, their opponent has scored first both times and has scored 14 points in the first half. In the Packers’ two victories, their opponent hasn’t scored first and has only scored three points in the first half.
Whichever team can come out scoring first on Sunday will probably win the game, so the Ravens offense will need to step up if they want to win.
Not only is Rodgers one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he has one of the best receiver groups in the league. At wide receiver the Packers have Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb and at tight end they have Jermichael Finley.
An easy way to slow down the Packers offense is to be able to cover all four of these players, but coving all four at the same time can be very challenging.
For the season, Nelson has 23 catches for 371 yards, Jones has 19 catches for 339 yards, Cobb has 25 catches for 325 yards, and Finley has 17 catches for 153 yards.
Normally, Nelson and Jones will line up as the outside receivers and Cobb will be in the slot. Finley can line up virtually anywhere on the field for the Packers.
The Ravens’ secondary will have its work cut out for themselves this week trying to guard this group. Expect the Ravens to be in a nickel formation for most of the game so they will have an extra defensive back on the field. When the Ravens go to nickel, linebacker Arthur Brown and cornerback Corey Graham come into the game and linebacker Josh Bynes and a defensive lineman will leave (the Ravens rotate their defensive lineman often so this player changes all the time).
Since the Ravens play a lot of zone defense, the defenders won’t have to go one-on-one with the Packers’ receivers for the most part. Safeties Matt Elam and James Ihedigbo will be responsible for the deep zones and the linebackers and cornerbacks will be responsible for the underneath zones.
The key will be to not let the receivers get behind the last defender as when that happens, Rodgers will not miss. Make him take the underneath routes and force him out of his rhythm with his receivers.
4. Joe Flacco
With the Packers defense hurting and the Packers offense in top form, this game has the makings of a high-scoring affair. In order for that to happen, Flacco will need to play a good game.
The Packers defense will be missing starting linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones along with starting cornerback Casey Hayward and another cornerback, Jarrett Bush, is questionable.
Having Matthews not playing will be huge for the Ravens as he is one of the best pass rushers in the league. This will give Flacco more time to throw the ball and find an open receiver. Also, Eugene Monroe is expected to make his Ravens debut this week which will give a boost to the offensive line which Pro Football Focus rated as the worst so far this season.
So far this season, Flacco hasn’t had a game similar to how he played in the playoffs last season where he showed he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. In the playoffs, he had a passer rating of 117.2, but his current passer rating is 70.1 and he has thrown five touchdowns and eight interceptions compared to 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Flacco put up those postseason numbers in four games and he has already played in five games this season and hasn’t come close to them.
For the Ravens to win this game, Flacco will need to go toe-for-toe with Rodgers and match him score-for-score.