Joe Flacco factor pivotal when Packers host Ravens
Ninth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2017 regular season.
GREEN BAY - As uncommon opponents go, the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers certainly fit that description.
Since the Ravens moved to Baltimore before the 1996 season, they have won two Super Bowls — same number as the Packers during that time — and played at Lambeau Field three times. Their last trip to Green Bay was late in the 2009 season, a Monday night in December. The Packers last visited Baltimore in October 2013, winning 19-17.
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There was a time the Ravens were among the most consistent franchises in the league. With only one winning record in the past four seasons, their success has become more unpredictable. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, the Ravens have fallen into the draft’s top 10 picks as many times as they’ve reached the playoffs.
They will try to end a two-year playoff absence this fall. A mid-November visit to Lambeau Field — their fourth road trip in a six-week stretch — could be a pivotal game.
Here are three things to know about the Ravens.
» Flacco’s faults: Joe Flacco is paid like a franchise quarterback, earning an average of more than $22 million per year. He’s earned that money in the past with big-time playoff performances, becoming an impetus to a Super Bowl XLVII title. The regular season has been a different reality for Flacco. Since the Ravens’ title, Flacco has thrown for 80 touchdowns with 66 interceptions and produced an 82.5 passer rating. Flacco finished seventh in the NFL with 4,317 passing yards last season — the first 4,000-yard season of his career — but an 83.5 passer rating that was 24th in the NFL. In a league where quarterback play is so important, Flacco’s regular-season struggles have been a big reason the Ravens’ playoff appearances have become less frequent.
»A void in the middle: It isn’t all Flacco’s fault, of course. For the past decade, there has been no greater litmus test for the Ravens’ success than their running game. In their six playoff appearances since 2007, the Ravens ranked an average 8.6 in rushing league-wide with four top-10 finishes. They ranked an average 25th in the league in rushing in their four seasons absent from the playoffs. Their inconsistency in the running game closely reflects an upheaval in their backfield depth chart. When the Ravens have had a Pro Bowl-caliber running back, whether it be Ray Rice or Justin Forsett, they’ve been one of the NFL’s best rushing teams. In the past two seasons, especially, the absence of a full-time, Pro Bowl tailback (Forsett missed six games in 2015) has made things tougher on Flacco.
» Good but not great: In the 2012 offseason, the Ravens lost two pillars of their defense: middle linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. It would be tough for any defense to thrive after losing two of the best ever to play their position, and the Ravens' defense certainly has been affected. In five straight playoff appearances from 2008-12, the Ravens averaged top-10 rankings in scoring defense (4.9), total defense (7) and takeaways (10.2). Their average rankings in scoring defense (12.75), total defense (8.75) and takeaways (19.1) have slipped without Lewis and Reed. For a team that won Super Bowls on the backbone of great defenses, the difference between great and merely good has made a big difference.
Packers schedule glimpse
Nov. 19 vs. Ravens, noon, CBS
Week before: at Bears, Nov. 12
Week after: at Steelers, Nov. 26
On the horizon: vs. Buccaneers, Dec. 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coach: John Harbaugh (85-59, 10th season)
2016 record: 8-8, second AFC North
Scoring offense: 21.4 points per game (21st in NFL)
Total offense: 347.7 yards per game (17th)
Scoringdefense: 20.1 points allowed per game (9th)
Total defense: 322.1 yards allowed per game (7th)
Series: Packers lead 4-1
Last meeting: In the closest of the five games in their series history, the Packers held on for a 19-17 win at Baltimore on Oct. 13, 2013. The difference was Mason Crosby’s four field goals, including a 31-yarder with 4:20 left that pushed the Packers' lead to nine points, providing enough cushion to withstand a late Ravens touchdown. The Packers' lone touchdown was a 64-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson, who finished with four catches for 113 yards. Eddie Lacy had one of the best games in his rookie season, rushing for 120 yards on 23 carries.