GREEN BAY—The Packers defeated a team from the AFC North, the Steelers, to win Super Bowl XLV. In regular-season games, however, the Packers are 2-7 against the AFC North since the 2002 realignment.
This Sunday, in Baltimore, the Packers will try again, in the first of consecutive games against AFC North teams. The Packers will host the Browns on Oct. 20.
It was a sweep of four games by the AFC North in 2005 that went a long way toward making that the 4-12 season it was. It marked the end of the Mike Sherman era and ushered in a more successful era in Packers football.
Attach importance to the 2-7 record? No, but we should attach a lot of significance to what happened in Cincinnati three weeks ago. The Bengals beat the Packers with AFC North-like football. They were chippy and patient and opportunistic, and that’s a style of play that’s been best represented by the Baltimore Ravens for a long time.
They are the reigning Super Bowl champions, but they also lost a lot of players from last year’s team, so this is a new kind of Ravens team, one without Ray Lewis and the swagger that had been the Ravens’ identity. One thing hasn’t changed: The Ravens continue to find ways to win.
In 2000, they won the Super Bowl despite having gone the month of October without scoring a touchdown.
Last January, they were down and out in Denver until Joe Flacco launched a rainbow of a pass and the Broncos secondary went to sleep. Nevermore.
There’s nothing in the Ravens’ rankings that would give cause to fear them, but they find ways to win, just as they did on the goal line against the 49ers in last winter’s Super Bowl, and that’s what makes the Ravens a feared opponent.
The Packers are Nos. 3, 5 and 4 in league offense rankings; the Ravens are Nos. 21, 27 and 14. So why are they such a scary opponent?
'Tis the wind, and nothing more.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Ravens.
1. Be physical—That’s Ravens football. That’s AFC North football. It’s how you must play to beat them.
2. Make big plays—The Ravens allow them.
3. Deny big plays—The Ravens make them.
4. Run the ball—John Harbaugh sounded most concerned about the Packers’ new-found running game. AFC North teams don’t like to be run on.
5. Test Eugene Monroe—He’s new to the Ravens and he’s protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side.
6. Block Terrell Suggs—He has seven sacks. He’s the Ravens’ playmaker.
7. Double Torrey Smith—He’s one of the hottest receivers in the league, with 27 catches for 556 yards and a whopping 20.6 yards-per-catch average.
8. Hurry Flacco—He’s been sacked 14 times and thrown eight interceptions.
9. Win ugly—AFC North teams make you do that. Style points aren’t necessary. Just win the game.
10. Don’t eat the crab—It’s been the ruin of many a man. Additional coverage - Oct. 10