The Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Ravens have both gotten off to slow starts this season. Heading into the 2013 season with Super Bowl aspirations, both team already have two losses so far and have alternately looked dominant and mortal at times.
Thankfully, neither team has lost sight of its identity. Aaron Rodgers still leads a formidable passing attack that is arguably the league's best when everything is clicking. The Ravens still lean heavily on a strong front seven, which has several new faces this season but remains ruthless, ranking No. 2 in the NFL with 19 sacks and No. 6 giving up 89.8 yards rushing per game.
Sunday's matchup should make for some fine viewing for fans, pitting strength against strength.
The Ravens' defensive line is its usual dominant self this season, led by Terrell Suggs. Now one year removed from a torn Achilles, Suggs is showing the game-changing form that won him Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. He's now up to seven sacks on the year after terrorizing the Miami Dolphins in Week 5. On the opposite side, Elvis Dumervil has been productive as well, recording three sacks so far. The middle of the line is anchored by Haloti Ngata, with Chris Canty and Arthur Jones rotating in beside him.
All of that talented has led to a defense that allowed just 449 rushing yards in five games, sixth least in the league. They rank 10th in defensive DVOA and are the chief reason the Ravens are 3-2 right now despite a struggling offense.
Rodgers might be the defensive line's toughest test not named Peyton Manning this season. He's one of the best quarterbacks in the league at evading pressure and has done so with shoddy offensive lines for years. That line might actually be improved this season; they rank seventh on Pro Football Focus despite losing Bryan Bulaga in the preseason. However, Fourth round rookie David Bakhtiari is replacing Bulaga on Rodgers' blind side and has predictably struggled. He will have his hands full with Baltimore's pass rush. Running back Eddie Lacy did a fine job in last week's win over Detroit, but he could struggle to find holes against Baltimore's line, so it could come down to Rodgers winning the game with his arm once again.
If Rodgers is able to get passes off, he should be able to find open receivers against a vulnerable secondary. After all, this is the same unit that gave up historic numbers to Manning in Week 1. The Ravens' defense has hunkered down since, but they also went up against Brandon Weeden, Matt Schaub, E.J. Manuel and Ryan Tannehill. Rodgers is capable of putting up Manning-like numbers in any given week. Thankfully for the Ravens, their pass rush has been fierce. The front seven will need to produce sacks if the Ravens are to notch their fourth win of the season. Likewise, the Packers need Rodgers to remain standing to have a chance of leaving Baltimore with a win.