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Ravens @ Packers: Prediction & Gametime 'Open Thread'

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Come back all day long and stick with Baltimore Beatdown throughout the Monday Night Football game to post your comments on the Baltimore Ravens at the Green Bay Packers tilt on prime time TV. As noted before, while the Pack has played night games before, this is the very first ever in December because it's always thought to have been way too cold to schedule one at this time of year. However, the NFL powers that be have decided to grant the Ravens the honor of being the first visiting team to experience the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field in this way. Temps are expected to be below freezing and at the time of this writing, it is snowing in Green Bay. However, it is not expected to continue through the game, so it will just be very, very cold tonight.

Don't expect the weather to have any effect on the game tonight in terms of the excuse why one team wins or loses. Both teams will pretty much be experiencing this bitter cold for the first time in 2009 and will handle it just fine once the whistle blows for the opening kickoff. How the teams execute will be the sole determining effect about who comes out ahead, and this is why I see both teams' record being 7-5 by the end of the game:

The Green Bay Packers are considered a 3.5 point favorite tonight. For a home team to just be picked to win by a field goal is the oddsmakers way of saying this is an even game. While the Packers are 7-4 and 4-2 at home, with both losses to teams that have also beaten the Ravens (Cincinnati, Minnesota). However, Green Bay has exactly one win over a team with a winning record (Dallas), and that team, other than a Thanksgiving Day home win over Oakland, has been an unimpressive 2-2 over their last four games.

On the Ravens side are wins over the AFC West's San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, teams that would be in the playoffs if the season were to end now, and three wins over teams with winning records at that time. In fact, every loss that the Ravens have had this season have been to teams that are in first place in their division. The Packers sit in second place in the NFC North, so if the trend holds true, the Ravens should win this game.

The lack of the Packers wins being over quality teams combined with their loss at Tampa Bay giving up 38 points in that game, lead me to believe that they can be scored on by the Ravens offense. I can see the running attack being distributed enough to give all three backs enough carries to wear down the Green Bay defense and keep them creeping up to stack the box. That leaves our wide receivers pretty much in single coverage and other than Charles Woodson, are susceptible to the big play. The Green Bay linebackers will not be able to cover Ray Rice out of the backfield and I expect the Ravens offensive line to not only open holes for the running attack, but to adequately protect Joe Flacco so he can find his open recievers and know where Woodson is at all times.

So that leaves the Ravens defense to do what they can to slow down the Packers prolific passing attack. Slow down is the key word, as stopping it altogether is pretty much out of the question. Keep the big plays to a minimum and don't let anyone get behind you for the long ball completions to a great group of wideouts and tight ends. I do not see Ryan Grant having a good game, so it will all come down to the pass rush to decide the contest. As mediocre as the Ravens pass rush has been this season, Green Bay's pass protection is the worst in the league. QB Aaron Rodgers tends to hold onto the ball too long and hopefully that will lead to a few sacks, but more importantly, poor decision making and turnovers through interceptions that the Ravens defense gives the ball to the offense on short fields to put points up. An Ed Reed pick-six certainly wouldn't hurt either and I see a couple of defensive turnovers giving the Ravens the edge. It should be a close one, but I like the Ravens chances to win this game and continue sticking with the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars in the hunt for an AFC Wild Card playoff slot.

Ravens:  27-24