This Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens will face their toughest test since the season opener in Denver. Like the Broncos, the Green Bay Packers have an elite quarterback, a talented group of pass-catchers and a formidable pass rush. The Ravens have gotten better since Week 1, but I don’t see a victory in the cards for them Sunday. I do see these four bold predictions coming true, though.
1. JACOBY JONES WILL RETURN … AND SCORE:
Wide receiver and return specialist Jacoby Jones has not played since spraining his right knee in the season opener, but after practicing all week, there is a good chance he returns against the Packers. And if he does suit up against the Packers, look for him to make an impact immediately. The Ravens offense has missed his size and speed on the outside and the special teams unit would like to get its Pro Bowl returner back into the mix. Whether it is a long touchdown pass from Joe Flacco or another tantalizing return, Jones will be back dancing in the end zone again Sunday.
2. THE RAVENS WILL OUT-RUSH THE PACKERS:
As I predicted in this space last week, running back Ray Rice was a big part of the game plan against the Miami Dolphins. He rushed for 74 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. The Ravens still have a lot of work to do to get their running game where it needs to be, but they appear to be heading in the right direction. The Packers are fifth in the NFL in rushing and their 141 yards per game is nearly double the Ravens' output, but I think the Ravens will out-rush them. The Packers like to run out of the shotgun. That won’t work against a fast and physical Ravens front seven.
3. AARON RODGERS WILL ECLIPSE 400 YARDS:
The Packers will find other ways to move the ball against the Ravens. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the NFL’s best. He is smart with mobility, a strong arm and a quick trigger, and the Packers have the NFL’s most talented trio of wide-outs this side of Denver. Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb are each averaging more than 81 receiving yards per game and tight end Jermichael Finley is also a threat. The Ravens secondary got picked apart in Week 1, the last time they played an offense like this, and while that unit is improving, Rodgers will top 400 passing yards, too.
4. TERRELL SUGGS WILL EXTEND HIS STREAK:
To keep No. 3 from happening and to give themselves a chance at winning Sunday, the Ravens will have to fluster Rodgers with a four-man run, something they have been doing to other quarterbacks in recent weeks. Rush linebacker Terrell Suggs has sacked a quarterback in every game this season and has seven in five games after getting three last week. Suggs tied a franchise record by extending his sack streak to five games. He will break it Sunday against unproven Packers tackles David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay, but the Ravens may need more than one sack from him to win.