How will the Ravens try to defend Aaron Rodgers?
We were just about ready to send the crystal ball back and ask for our money back after the first few weeks, but then it hit on eight of the 10 predictions last week, including a three-point Ravens win at Miami. Here's what it says will happen this week:
1. The Packers will have more rushing yards than the Ravens.
The Packers have established a much-needed ground game this season. James Starks (out with a knee injury) and Johnathan Franklin each have a 100-yard game, and Eddie Lacy gained 99 yards against the Lions last week. The Packers rank fifth in the league in rushing (141.0 yards a game), while the Ravens rank 27th (77.8). Ray Rice has not reeled off a run longer than 7 yards in the past two games.
2. Eugene Monroe will take over as the Ravens left tackle.
Look for Monroe, acquired two weeks ago from Jacksonville to start and send Bryant McKinnie to the bench. Monroe isn't a Pro Bowl player but he's an upgrade and the Ravens need it. That's why the Ravens dealt for Monroe in their first in-season trade ever.
3. A running back will fumble.
Ray Rice insists he doesn't have a fumbling problem, but he has coughed up the ball five times in his past eight games, including once last week at Miami. The Packers, too, have had trouble holding on to the ball. Eddie Lacy fumbled in his first game, and Johnathan Franklin has fumbled twice in 16 carries. Franklin's fumble against Cincinnati was returned by the Bengals for a game-winning touchdown.
4. Torrey Smith will have 100 receiving yards.
Smith has established himself as a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He has at least 85 receiving yards in every game this season, the only player in the league to accomplish that. Smith can again expect a lot of defensive attention, but that hasn't stopped him yet.
5. There will be a touchdown of 40 yards or more.
Playmakers will be all over the field on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 12 touchdown passes of 70 yards or more in his career, and Flacco and Torrey Smith are certainly capable of a huge play as well. Tandon Doss, Randall Cobb and Jacoby Jones, who could return to action, all have return touchdowns on their resumes.
6. Joe Flacco will complete at least 60 percent of his passes.
Flacco has not put up gaudy numbers this year, but he plays better at home. This season, Flacco has completed 66.7 percent of his passes at home and 54.2 percent on the road. The Ravens receivers didn't have nearly as many drops last week, and look for that improvement to continue.
7. Terrell Suggs' sack streak will continue.
Suggs has seven sacks in the Ravens first five games, with at least one in every game. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is known to extend plays, but he's been dropped 11 times in four games, and he'll see plenty of Suggs in the backfield. Suggs will become the first Raven ever with a sack in six straight games.
8. Sam Koch will average better than 47 yards a punt.
Koch is coming off an uncharacteristically poor performance at Miami, with two 26-yard punts. He averaged just 34.2 yards on five kicks. Koch is averaging 46.5 yards a kick this season, and he'll bounce back with a strong effort.
9. 27 points will not be enough to win.
The Ravens would probably prefer not to get into an end-to-end shootout with Aaron Rodgers, but they might not have much choice. The Packers average 29.5 points a game, which ranks third in the league, and it only takes a couple of defensive mistakes to drive that number up. The Ravens scored 30 once this season, at home against Houston, and they'll need that kind of effort again.
10. Packers 30, Ravens 27
The Ravens defense has stiffened in the red zone and will do so again, holding the Packers to field goals three times. But Aaron Rodgers and that multi-faceted offense have just enough on the road to overcome a Ravens team that is still finding its legs offensively.