Keys to the Game: Packers at Ravens

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Green Bay Packers

Don’t Miss Matthews

The Green Bay Packers will have to adjust quickly to life without Clay Matthews, who will miss multiple weeks with a broken thumb. Someone on the defense will need to step up and provide the pass rush. The absence could be an opportunity, as the Packers’ outside linebackers feel the pressure to perform with the spotlight trained fully on their performances. When Matthews does return to the lineup, the Packers could find themselves with more dependable players opposite their star pass rusher.

Get Rodgers Right

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has played fine in the last two games, but the performances have not been up to the level everyone has come to expect from Rodgers. With big question marks on the defensive side of the ball and facing a tough run defense, Rodgers needs to bring his A game Sunday. A stellar performance by Rodgers can mask a lot of deficiencies elsewhere.

Baltimore Ravens

Sack Away

The Ravens’ defense has excelled at getting to quarterbacks this season. The unit has 19 sacks, led by linebacker Terrell Suggs’ seven sacks. Against the Packers, who start a rookie at left tackle, it’s the Ravens’ best bet for stopping the high-powered Packers offense. Rodgers running scared or on his back would be a welcome sight for the Ravens.

Get Flacco Right

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco also hasn’t been putting up stellar numbers after signing a major deal in the offseason. Flacco has 1,360 yards, but has only five touchdowns to eight interceptions. Flacco needs to have a solid game to keep up with Rodgers and the Packers. With both defenses being stout against the run, the pressure will be mostly on the quarterbacks. Whichever QB steps up and plays the better game will likely walk off the field a winner Sunday.

Other Keys

Must-See Matchup

Torrey Smith vs. Sam Shields

Ravens receiver Torrey Smith has been tearing up defenses this season and already has 556 yards. The Packers are likely to lock up Smith with Sam Shields, who has taken on the task of taking away the opponent’s best receiver. Shields will have his hands full against Smith, who had 121 yards on six catches last week against Miami.

About Due

Win on the road

The Packers are 0-2 this season on the road, losing to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. To reach the playoffs the Packers will need a few wins on the road at some point this season. If the Packers go to 0-3 on the road, the only opportunities left to pick up road wins are at New York (Giants), at Dallas and three division games.

Hot Seat

Mike Neal

Mike Neal made his first start at outside linebacker against the Lions on Sunday. The converted defensive lineman had a sack and played well. Neal also has an interception this season. With Matthews out, Neal will continue to be a starter at outside linebacker for the next few weeks. He has to make an impact for a Packers defense that is used to relying on Matthews’ plays.