Offensive line vs. LB Ray Lewis: It's been eight years since the Packers last had to contend with the ageless enforcer that Lewis is in Baltimore's formidable 3-4 front. Lewis missed the teams' most recent meeting in 2005 because of a hamstring injury. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year continues to have a nose for the football with a team-leading 116 tackles (74 solo), more than twice the total of the Ravens' No. 2-ranked player. Although Lewis' sack numbers are down with two this season, Green Bay's seemingly solidified front five will have to be on its toes to pick up Lewis in Baltimore's myriad blitz schemes. Erasing Lewis from run plays to create open lanes for Ryan Grant's cutbacks also is a daunting task.
WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver vs. CBs Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth: This will be the deciding matchup. This appears to be a huge advantage for the Packers — and a bigger advantage with fellow receivers James Jones and Jordy Nelson. The Packers' receivers have been making plays and catching everything in sight the last few weeks. The Ravens' secondary has been the weak link on the team, though the rookie Webb has been an upgrade over the injured Fabian Washington. If the Packers can protect Aaron Rodgers — the health of left tackle Chad Clifton is paramount — Green Bay should produce through the air.
PACKERS DEFENSE VS. RAVENS OFFENSE
Linebackers vs. RB Ray Rice: Green Bay's young and steadily improving linebacker corps, which features rookie bookend starters Clay Matthews and Brad Jones in the 3-4 scheme, will be put to the test against the multidimensional Rice. Baltimore's second-year player is as dangerous catching the football as he is running it. He is second in the league with 1,403 all-purpose yards (821 rushing, 582 receiving) and is the top-rated running back with 61 receptions. Rice is diminutive at 5-foot-8 but quick and elusive. Packers linebackers will have to be sure with their fits against the run. How the Packers defend him coming out of the backfield in the passing game will be interesting. They can ill afford to stick coverage-challenged inside linebacker A.J. Hawk on Rice, but the raw but athletic Jones might be an upgrade over injured Aaron Kampman in that realm.
CB Charles Woodson vs. Ravens skill players: The only thing predictable about Woodson is the unpredictability. Will he be on receiver Derrick Mason? Tight end Todd Heap? Rice? Chances are, it will be some of everything, which will put him in position to blitz and make plays while keeping the Ravens' offense on its toes. The Ravens' perimeter skill players are pretty average with Mason, Mark Clayton and Heap, so defensive coordinator Dom Capers will be able to pick his spots with Woodson. Will Woodson make plays, or will quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens be able to scheme around Woodson and take advantage of Jarrett Bush and Tramon Williams?
THE PACKERS WILL WIN IF ...
... they can protect Rodgers. In a matchup of pretty equally matched teams, the Packers have a big advantage with their perimeter players. But can they take advantage?
THE PACKERS WILL LOSE IF ...
... they can't handle Rice. No offense to Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson, but this is the best all-around back they'll face all season. Can the Packers' linebackers keep up with Rice one-on-one in the flat?
THE RAVENS WILL WIN IF ...
... either Webb on a kickoff or Chris Carr on a punt breaks loose for a big return against the Packers' suspect special teams.
THE RAVENS WILL LOSE IF ...
... they don't win first down on offense. The Ravens are at their best if they can pound away with their running backs. If it's second-and-8 consitently enough, though, that plays into the hands of Capers and his confident defense.
Bill Huber (8-3): If the Ravens were more explosive on the perimeter, they'd have a better chance of taking advantage of Jarrett Bush or safety Atari Bigby in coverage. As it is, as long as they don't suffer a meltdown on special teams and can keep nose tackle Haloti Ngata out of the backfield, the Packers will have enough. Packers 24, Ravens 20.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.