COMMENTARY | It's not often that the team traveling to face the defending Super Bowl champion is favored according to Vegas, but the Green Bay Packers will enter M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday as three-point favorites over the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens (3-2) endured plenty of change during the offseason and have been inconsistent on offense through five games, but the bottom line is that they have found a way to win more than they've lost.
The big news coming out of Green Bay (2-2) is the injury to Clay Matthews, as a broken thumb is expected to keep him out for about a month. Despite ranking near the top of the NFL in passing and rushing, the Packers only have a .500 record to show for it due to a couple of narrow defeats on the road.
Can the Packers finally break the trend and win away from Lambeau Field? Here are five things to watch when Green Bay takes on Joe Flacco and the Ravens in Week 6.
Green Bay's Linebacker Corps
There's no doubt that the injury to Matthews hurts the defense, but he won't be the only starting linebacker missing action. A hamstring injury that knocked out middle linebacker Brad Jones against the Detroit Lions will keep him sidelined against the Ravens, meaning the Packers will only have two of their regulars suiting up at linebacker.
In Matthews' place will be Nick Perry while Jamari Lattimore, who usually only plays on special teams, will start for Jones. Lattimore is the biggest unknown, but Perry has started almost every game he's been active and recorded two sacks in limited time against the Lions in Week 5.
How Lattimore responds to the starting role is the biggest key, but what works in Green Bay's favor is that Baltimore has dealt with injuries on its offensive line, which has statistically been one of the worst in the NFL this season.
Can Packers Continue Running the Football?
Against the Lions, Eddie Lacy was one yard away from becoming the third different 100-yard rusher for the Packers through four weeks of play.
We'll let you mull over just how ridiculous that is considering the struggles Green Bay has had in recent years moving the ball on the ground.
But the Packers' run game will face their biggest test yet against Baltimore, a team that ranks No. 6 in rushing yards allowed per game, just one spot behind the Packers. Green Bay has been the fifth-best running team in the NFL, so something has to give.
How Green Bay Handles Tough Environment
Since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach of the Ravens, Baltimore is 33-7 when playing at home.
It's one of the most intimidating environments in the league, and the Ravens are 2-0 at M&T Bank Stadium in 2013. Not to say San Francisco and Cincinnati aren't difficult places to play as well, but this will prove to be the most hostile stadium the Packers have played in this season.
It will be important for Green Bay to get out to an early lead and play from ahead in order to subdue a raucous crowd, but it will be an uphill battle for the Packers to secure their first road win of 2013.
Can Defense Create Turnovers?
The Packers only have five takeaways through four games, and they have the second-worst turnover differential in the NFC. That's a rather startling statistic, as Dom Capers' 3-4 defense is predicated on getting pressure on the quarterback and creating turnovers.
This week could be the ideal time for Green Bay to improve that mark. Baltimore is -4 in the turnover department, and that's largely due to Flacco's eight interceptions.
Obviously, missing players like Clay Matthews and Casey Hayward, two players notorious for creating turnovers, will make it harder to take the ball away, but the Ravens present the best opportunity yet.
The Triple Threat at Wide Receiver
The Ravens' defense is the biggest reason why Baltimore is 3-2, but whether or not it can handle the Packers' triple threat of James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb at wide receiver could be the story of the game.
Each player brings a unique skill set to the table, and we didn't even mention tight end Jermichael Finley, who has been a yards after the catch machine. The Ravens have a so-so pass defense, although many remember the drubbing it took against the Denver Broncos in Week 1.
Typically, the better Aaron Rodgers is able to spread the ball around, the more success the Packers have on offense. We'll see whose turn it is to lead the way at wide receiver for Green Bay this time around.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
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