Week six of the NFL sees a cross-conference battle of two contenders. The Green Bay Packers travel to Baltimore where they will take on the Ravens at noon on Sunday. Although these teams are sputtering a bit out of the gates, there is little doubt that they will at some point bounce back and qualify for the playoffs come January.
In Green Bay the early struggles have been largely due to injuries, particularly a rash of hamstring issues. Finally getting their boys back on the field, Eddie Lacy and Jermichael Finley returned from concussions last week, this team will begin to resemble the 2012 Packers before we know it.
Throw in an early schedule that was absolutely brutal for Green Bay and the 2-2 start is a lot more forgivable. An opening day loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Colin Kaepernick’s career best day is understandable, and dropping a game to a Cincinnati Bengals team that completely shut down the New England Patriots a week ago is also far from a disappointment.
Over in Baltimore the defending champion Ravens have a much different look in 2013 then they did a year ago when they sent Ray Lewis out on top. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice still are in the backfield for an offense that is productive if not exactly elite. Defensively is where the names look different. Gone are the legends of Lewis and Ed Reed, a younger team that has been effective in all but a few efforts this year.
Baltimore lost their season opener as well, falling to the Broncos on the debut of monster Manning and his ridiculous start to 2013. The other loss looks a little worse, being upset by Buffalo in week four.
When they take the field today it will be a hard fought game. On paper the match up is extremely even.
The quarterback play of Aaron Rodgers is going to be a difference maker in this one. Not exactly the prolific offense we have come to expect in Green Bay, but the big plays are beginning to come back. James Jones and his 82 yard bomb from Rodgers last week against Detroit was a thing of beauty. More of those big plays will be springing up on Sunday.
Joe Flacco may have proven to the world that he is the elite quarterback he thought he was, however the talent around him is nowhere near enough to let him give an encore performance this year.
The receivers of Green Bay compared to the receivers of Baltimore, besides Torrey Smith, is a major advantage for the Packers. When the second best pass catcher on your team is rookie Marlon Brown, it is no wonder Flacco is finding it difficult to post huge numbers.
Running back is where the table begins to shift towards Baltimore. Green Bay does have a running game with Eddie Lacy, however they don’t use him as much as the Ravens use Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. They are the focal points of the offense and will set the tone when they have the ball today.
Green Bay has been pretty good at stopping the run, they shut down Reggie Bush a week ago, and will look to make Flacco throw to win. Should they be able to do this, Baltimore will not compete in this one. The Ravens defense will make it difficult on Rodgers, but in the end the best quarterback in football will find a way to put up enough points to win in hostile territory.
Prediction: Packers 24, Ravens 13