Both teams look to continue their recent success when they meet for the first time in four years Monday night at Lambeau Field.
While Green Bay (7-4) currently holds one of the wild-card spots in the NFC, the Ravens (6-5) are in the mix with Denver, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville for the two AFC wild-card berths.
“Our margin of error is going to need to be a lot less than it has been in the first 11 games because it’s December football now,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is the most important football that we’ll play all season.”
Green Bay looks for a fourth straight victory after a 34-12 Thanksgiving Day rout of Detroit, while Baltimore is coming off a 20-17 overtime win over Pittsburgh last Sunday.
Though the Ravens have alternated wins and losses over their last five games, they allowed an average of 11.6 points while going 3-2 in November and their remaining five opponents have a combined .400 winning percentage.
“Our goal right now is just to win the game, no matter what it looks like, or what goes on in between, the first quarter, the fourth quarter,” said Baltimore receiver Mark Clayton(notes), who had seven catches for 129 yards against Pittsburgh.
A victory over a quality opponent in this contest could go a long way for either team. Green Bay is 2-1 all-time versus the Ravens and won the last meeting 48-3 at Baltimore on Dec. 19, 2005.
It’s likely this matchup will be closer, despite the Packers’ recent effort against the lowly Lions.
Aaron Rodgers(notes) was 28 of 39 for 348 yards with a career-high-tying three touchdowns, Donald Driver(notes) caught seven passes for 142 yards with a touchdown and cornerback Charles Woodson(notes) had a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two interceptions - one returned for a TD.
While the Packers’ offense has totaled 906 yards and 64 points in their two latest wins over San Francisco and Detroit, their defense is a big reason the club closed November with three straight wins in a 12-day period.
Under coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 system, Green Bay allows an NFL-low 281.5 yards per game and has nine takeaways during the three-game winning streak.
“It feels good to be talking about No. 1 and keeping focused and staying focused, and you like to have that rather than, ‘Why is your defense 32nd?”’ linebacker Nick Barnett(notes) said. “But we’ve got to keep things in perspective. Like I say, you’re not No. 1 unless you end the season No. 1, and we know we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and still got room to grow.”
So may Rodgers on the offensive side of the ball, but he’s completed 70.8 percent of his passes for 881 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three contests.
Baltimore’s five losses have come by a total of 23 points, including three defeats by three points or fewer. Winning a close one over the defending Super Bowl champs last weekend should instill even more confidence.
“We know how to play in a tight game, and winning a tight game against that kind of a team was huge for us,” coach John Harbaugh said.
Offensively, budding star Ray Rice(notes) had 88 yards rushing and caught five passes for 67 for his eighth straight game of at least 100 total yards from scrimmage. Since Week 4, Rice has 1,126 scrimmage yards - second-most to Chris Johnson’s 1,233 for Tennessee.
“I think Joe’s done a heck of a job fighting through it,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not a major injury but I’m sure it’s bothersome for a quarterback to have that foot a little bit sore.”
Flacco was 23 of 35 for 289 yards and threw his first touchdown in four games last Sunday.