Pregame Notes: Ravens-Packers
The NFP’s Matt Bowen breaks down his pregame notes for tonight’s Monday Night game at Lambeau Field, which carries big playoff implications.
Baltimore (6-5) at Green Bay (7-4)
Beating the Ravens pressure
Not much different than when they defeated the Cowboys last month at Lambeau, the Packers will once again be facing a defense that relies on pressure to create plays. How do you beat that? The quick routes: the slant, the hitch, the one step fade, etc. But, more importantly, this game hinges on the ability of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to read the Baltimore pressure from its pre-snap alignment. Understanding where the pressure is coming from and who to react to when the Ravens overload one side of the football is essential for Rodgers in order to produce in the stat column. The hot reads will be there.
Matching up with Heap
I am curious to see how the Packers handle third-down situations and how they handle TE Todd Heap, who could cause some major matchup issues for the Green Bay secondary. I would not be surprised to see the Pack move Charles Woodson into the inside and give him the responsibility of handling Heap in third-and-medium situations—where the Ravens often use the tight end in the middle of the field on option routes vs. man coverage. Taking Heap out of the game forces Ravens QB Joe Flacco to use his options outside of the numbers—where I still view the Packers as having the edge.
Rice has to be the most under appreciated running back in the league when it comes to the discussion of the NFL’s best. But watching him play, it is obvious that he is not only an issue for defenses in the running game, but also when they use him out of the backfield in the passing game. Look for Rice to check out of the Ravens protection schemes—where he will be matched up with a linebacker or a safety—and look for Flacco to target him. The Ravens like to run the option route with Rice, as well as the Angle route—where he will stem to the flat and break back to the middle of the field versus outside leverage man coverage.
The Packers pressure
Just as we talked about Rice, the Packers can make him stay in protection by using their pressure schemes on third downs. If Dom Capers feels confident about his secondary play, then look for him to send six or even seven-man pressure to keep Rice in the protection scheme and allow the Packers to play man coverage with free safety help in the middle of the field.
Yes, tackling is often times considered an elementary skill at this level, but it doesn’t take an expert to look around the league and see how poor the technique has become at this level—especially in the secondary. These teams are so evenly matched on defense that the secondary that tackles best will most likely get off the field the most. For the Ravens, that means tackling receivers such as Greg Jennings and Donald Driver once they catch the ball in the 3-step game, and for the Packers, that means tackling Rice if he does get to the second level of the defense in the run game.
I expect to see them from both offenses tonight. One way to beat an overly aggressive defense is to use double moves once the 3-step passing game is established. The slant and go, the hitch and go, plus the deeper double moves (the Post-Corner for example). Ed Reed may be the best safety in the entire league, but he can be beat down the field when he starts to play overconfident and sits on routes—and the same can be said for the Packers secondary.
Red Zone scoring
Big for both teams. In a game with playoff implications, you can’t leave points on the field—and settling for field goals will get you beat in December. The field is going to shrink in the passing game, but whoever can run the ball effectively inside the 20-yard line should come out of this game with a win. Scoring opportunities should be few and far between—but when the opportunity is there, you have to get six points.
Click here to listen to Bowen and Bunting break down the Week 13 Sunday action in the Cover 2 Podcast.
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To read about the competitive AFC playoff race and where the Ravens may fit, check out this article from Bleacher Report.