The Packers completed their third straight sweep of the rival Chicago Bears. While the offense and defense both looked the part of a championship caliber team, special teams did everything it could to keep the Bears in the game. Shaky kick coverage units combined with poor punts and kickoffs led to an inferior opponent staying in the game much longer than they should have. This week, the Packers will need to start patching the holes against the injury ridden Baltimore Ravens. If Green Bay wants to keep pace in the ultra-competitive NFC playoff race, they will need some clutch performances from a few players.
Krys Barnes and De’vondre Campbell
The inside linebacker duo of De’vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes both had excellent games against Chicago. Campbell racked up 16 tackles and was quite literally everywhere on the field. Similarly, Barnes had an excellent game, showing continuously good instincts and solid decision making. While the athletic Justin Fields broke a free a few times, the dynamic duo combined with a disciplined pass to contain him.
This week against the Ravens, the Packers will again lean heavily on their inside linebackers. While at this point it’s unclear if all-world quarterback Lamar Jackson will be able to play, Joe Barry will need to develop a plan to contain another ultra-mobile signal caller. Undoubtedly, Campbell and Barnes will be the cornerstones of any defensive effort to secure a win in Baltimore. They both will be called on to spy the Raven’s quarterbacks, making sure that they limit their explosive nature.
In the past two games, Kingsley Keke has begun to put it all together. He’s quietly become a cannonball of disruption for opposing offenses. Playing next to Kenny Clark, he is getting a huge number of one-on-one opportunities, and Keke is making the most of them. However, there are still times where his aggressiveness causes him to vacate his rush lane. This cannot happen this week in Baltimore.
The Ravens offense is somewhat unique in the NFL in that it focuses heavily on running the ball. Even when the play call is a pass, it’s not uncommon to see Lamar Jackson looking to run if the pass rush isn’t disciplined. Keke absolutely will need to push the pocket but also will need to maintain pass rush lane integrity to help contain Jackson. Without that discipline, it could be a long day for the Packers defense.
In many ways Lucas Patrick has been a godsend. Moving around the offensive line as injuries occurred, he has maintained stability at center since Josh Meyer’s injury. Patrick has been critical in keeping the line cohesive. His job got no easier against Chicago when right tackle Billy Turner dropped out of the game with a knee injury. This brought in Dennis Kelley from the bench, who will likely be making the first start of his Packers career Sunday.
On the road with a new starter, coupled with backups throughout the offensive line, Patrick will be heavily relied on to keep the unit coordinated. He will need to work closely with Aaron Rodgers to make sure everyone is on the same page in a hostile environment. For the offense to build further on the success they have had the past two weeks, the offensive line will need to show out in Baltimore.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.