In eager anticipation of the 2013 NFL season, Baltimore Sun blogger and reporter Matt Vensel will take a daily look at one of the 13 opponents on the Ravens’ regular-season schedule. Today is the Green Bay Packers.
The Ravens’ Week 6 game against the Green Bay Packers figures to be one of the most anticipated games on their regular-season schedule, particularly among those played at M&T Bank Stadium. The Packers, led by former MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, won the Super Bowl three years ago and are perennial contenders in the NFC. The Ravens, led by Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco, are the reigning champions and are perennial contenders in the AFC. Fans of offensive football should be looking forward to this one. I know I am.
Recapping 2012: Despite being robbed of one win by the replacement refs, the Packers finished 11-5 last season and won the NFC North. They have now won at least 10 games in four straight seasons. Despite the lack of a consistent running game and injuries at the wide receiver position, Rodgers threw for 4,295 yards and 39 touchdowns and the Packers were fifth in scoring offense. Their defense improved from 2011 and ranked 11th in points allowed, but the run-heavy San Francisco 49ers rolled over the Packers in the playoffs.
Cha-cha-changes: Like the Ravens, the Packers typically build through the draft and try to avoid throwing big money at free agents. They let veterans Charles Woodson and Greg Jennings, two major building blocks from years past, go in the offseason and signed no veteran free agents of note. They drafted 11 players in April, led by UCLA defensive end Datone Jones. They also selected a pair of running backs in Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin with the hope that they will improve their 20th-ranked rushing attack.
The skinny: As long as Aaron Rodgers is in the lineup, the Packers will be formidable. Rodgers is considered by many to be the NFL’s best quarterback, taking the torch away from elder statesmen Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Despite the loss of Jennings, he still has a fine trio of receivers in Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. As for the defense, the Packers have a lot of young talent on that side of the ball, having put a major emphasis on defense in the past two drafts. They are optimistic that 2012 first-rounder Nick Perry can become a pass-rushing threat to pair with sack specialist Clay Matthews III.
Recent history: There is not much history here at all, let alone recently. The Ravens and Packers last played four years ago, when the Packers beat the Ravens in a Monday night snoozefest that wasn't remotely as close as the 27-14 final score indicated. They have played four times since the Ravens came to Baltimore in 1996, with the Ravens winning just once, in 2005.
Degree of difficulty: The Ravens will benefit from home-field advantage when the two teams meet this season, but the mid-October showdown should be one of the toughest games on the schedule. Rodgers and the Packers offense will test the Ravens’ revamped defense, whose defenders will have just five games under their belt together. But the Ravens should also have opportunities to move the ball against a good, but not great Packers defense. Still, as I see it, the degree of difficulty is nine out of 10.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun