Monday Match-Up: Baltimore @ Green Bay

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It’s been a long time since the Ravens played in Green Bay at historic Lambeau Field and they look forward to the trip as they still have hopes of making a post season run. It was important for the team to be on the winning end of a close game last Sunday. The team must carry the positive momentum into this game as they play on a national stage—Monday Night Football.

Green Bay had an extra few days off after playing Detroit on Thanksgiving; the team is on a roll and defensively they have improved in the past three games. Green Bay’s offense is a threat featuring a quarterback who has strong arm and two dynamic receivers to rely on.

The Packers

OFFENSE: QB Aaron Rodgers is talented and putting up excellent numbers this season. The QB has 22 TD’s and only 5 interceptions passing for 3,136 yards. Given enough time in the pocket Rodgers can dissect any defense. A problem has been consistency at the offensive line where the team has given up 44 sacks. It has been described that the offensive line has been playing musical chairs due to injuries and personnel changes. There have been six different starting combinations on the offensive line in the first 10 games. Of late they have been better in pass protection.

The Running back Ryan Grant is productive with 890 yards and 4.3 yards per run attempt. Grant is a strong runner and possesses the skills to fight for the tough yards. RB Brandon Jackson the back up has increased his carries as the season has progressed.

Green Bay has two weapons at the receiver position. Donald Driver with 52 receptions and Greg Jennings with 47 receptions are the ‘go to’ receivers. Both Driver and Jennings have speed, are good route runners and have strong hands. Tight End Donald Lee is a good tight end and is third on the team with 30 receptions.

Lately: The team started out shaky but turned the corner; they are in the playoff picture at 7-4, winning 3 in a row. Rodgers is in a groove along with his receivers. The offensive line has given up way too many sacks but the team has improved in that area of late. Running back Ryan Grant is a player that improves as the season moves forward.

DEFENSE: Don Capers has done some remolding to this defense. The once 4-3 is now a 3-4 anchored by nose tackle in Ryan Pickett and rookie BJ Raji. The Defense ranks 11th against the pass and 4th against the run giving up around 90 yards a game. Total yards allowed the defense is ranked 1st at 281 yards per game. In addition to standout LB AJ Hawk, the team drafted rookie LB Clay Mathews who has adapted well to the NFL. LB Nick Barnett leads the linebackers with 59 solo tackles, a good playmaker and reads offenses well.

The team was dealt a set back as Pro-Bowler CB Al Harris and LB Aaron Kampman, suffered season-ending knee injuries. However, veteran CB Charles Woodsen is playing well with 7 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 2 sacks. Safety Nick Collins has 3 interceptions in the last four games.

Lately: The improved defense has allowed less than 300 total yards each of the last four games. The team has held teams to 75 yards running in the past three games. The secondary has to make up for CB Al Harris who is lost for the season with an injury.

MATCH-UPS: Chalk It Up!

Ravens offensive game plan: Our Ravens must continue to establish the run. Establishing the run will enable the play action pass to be utilized in order to open up the passing game. The offensive line did a superb job run blocking last week as the interior of the O-line opened holes for running backs Rice, McGahee and McClain. One negative is that the O-line gave up 5 sacks last week; the unit will have to improve in this area. As the Packers are scrambling to get their secondary in order as CB Al Harris is injured, the Ravens need to take advantage of any mismatches.

Mason vs. CB Woodsen: Cornerback Woodsen was named NFC defensive player of the week. If Mason gets lined up against CB Charles Woodsen, it will be interesting to see this battle. Both are savvy veterans and Flacco has to be careful not to take too many chances going against Woodsen.

Ray Rice & TE’s vs. Linebackers: Green Bay’s linebackers are aggressive and play the run well; however out in space they have struggled a bit. Ray Rice will be having a big day if he is not contained. Todd Heap & L.J. Smith need to also take advantage of any mismatches.

Ravens defensive game plan: Get pressure on QB Rodgers. The offensive line has given up a lot of sacks and the Ravens must take advantage of this. LB Jameel McClean is a good pass rusher and should be utilized in this game. The temptation may be to blitz Rodgers, but the downside is the risk of the big plays in the secondary. Mattiosn needs to protect against the big passing plays, but at the same time take advantage of a suspect offensive line.

Secondary vs. Driver & Jennings. Receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are the playmakers and this will be a top priority for the secondary. A tough match up for the Ravens secondary as both receivers get open and run deep routes. The Packers will look to expose a battered Ravens secondary. The good news is that CB Lardarius Webb may get the start. After watching Webb play on Sunday, he is the best option for the Ravens.

RB Ryan Grant vs. Ray Lewis: LB Ray Lewis has had a minor foot injury but he still recognizes plays and is holding his own. Lewis will have to keep running back Grant in check. The team still needs to improve on getting the surge at the line of scrimmage.

Special Teams: Field goals could be a factor depending on weather conditions. The Packers K Mason Crosby ranks 25th in the league with 77 percent field goal accuracy. Billy Cundiff is an improvement for the Ravens so far, but has only played 2 games for the team. Playing on the road could be a different story; however Cundiff should have some confidence as he had the game winner in the last game.

Punt Returns & Kickoffs: The Packers rank last in punting average, Chris Carr is coming off a strong return game. The Packers are also struggling in allowing kickoff returns. As reported, “only seven teams have allowed more yards per kickoff return than the Packers.”

QB Joe Flacco: The second year quarterback has put his offense in positions to win games in the fourth quarter this year. Last week he stuck a confidence builder as he had good drives against a tough defense. The offensive unit has to play smart and not let opportunities fail due to penalties or blown assignments in pass protection.

Penalties: The team needs to clean up the penalties. There was a block in the back penalty on a crucial punt return last week and another holding call on a kick return.

A little momentum: The Ravens may have received a spark as they beat the rival Steelers. Although Roethlisberger was out the Ravens offense had success against a tough Steelers defense. The ‘fourth and five’ play should give a boost to the offense.

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