|National Football League|
Hundley, Packers face tough test vs. rested Ravens
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Baltimore Ravens' quarterback is a former Super Bowl MVP while the man behind center for the Green Bay Packers is a backup who will be making his fourth career start.
In both cases, the teams will need more from their passers if they're going to make a run to the playoffs. That starts on Sunday, when Brett Hundley and the Packers (5-4) host Joe Flacco and the Ravens (4-5).
Hundley is coming off his best game as a professional, highlighted by two clutch fourth-quarter passes to receiver Davante Adams to help Green Bay to a 23-16 win over Chicago. He'll face a huge test against a Ravens' defense that ranks second in opponent passer rating, second in opponent completion percentage and first in interceptions.
"You've got to look at their skill players on the back end and, really, what they're able to generate up front," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Their edge rushers play at a very high level. When they're blitzing, they're coming off the bench. They've got a lot of different looks, a lot of different types of pressures, so they're forcing the quarterback to play with a different time clock. They're doing a heck of a job, obviously, in the passing game."
Baltimore's secondary is one of the best in the NFL. The cornerback trio of Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey has combined to help the Ravens rank second in opponent completion percentage. Smith's seventh season has been his best, Carr is tied for the team lead with three interceptions after signing in free agency and Humphrey was the team's first-round pick.
Stopping Adams will be a focus for the Ravens. Last week, he caught a 19-yard, back-shoulder touchdown pass and reeled in a 42-yard reception on third-and-long to help the Packers snap a three-game losing streak.
"He's connecting with No. 17 quite a bit," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Hundley throwing to Adams.
The Ravens lost three of their last four games but are entering a soft second-half schedule. Over the final seven weeks, the Ravens play at Green Bay, host Houston (3-6) and Detroit (5-4), play at Pittsburgh (7-2) and Cleveland (0-9) and host Indianapolis (3-7) and Cincinnati (3-6).
For Baltimore to make a run, though, it will need more out of Flacco. Of 33 qualifying quarterbacks, he ranks No. 31 in passer rating (72.7), No. 33 in yards per attempt (5.3) and has thrown eight touchdowns versus 10 interceptions.
More production from the perimeter weapons is vital. Baltimore's leading receiver is running back Javorius Allen, and he's averaging only 4.8 yards per catch. Flacco needs to get the ball into the hands of receivers Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace more frequently, Harbaugh said.
"It's very important that we do that," he said. "We have some guys who are very capable of making plays, who have made plays. We've got to get that going for us if we want to do anything the second half of the season."
The Packers' defense might aid in that happening. Green Bay ranks 20th against the pass. After allowing back-to-back 300-yard passing games against New Orleans' Drew Brees and Detroit's Matthew Stafford, Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky threw for 297 yards -- 133 more yards than the rookie's previous career high.
The Packers could be without several starters, including two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He is on injured reserve with a broken collarbone but went through some conditioning work at Wednesday's practice for the first time since going down at Minnesota on Oct. 15.
"I think if we've got to wait until Week 15 (for Rodgers to play) but, for a guy who just had surgery several weeks ago, you wouldn't be able to tell that he had surgery," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We've still got to wait but it's good to see. At the same time, we've still got to hold up our end of the bargain and steal a few wins throughout these next several weeks in hopes that we've got a shot with him coming back. We started with one last week. Hopefully we can get another one this week."
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), safety Morgan Burnett (groin) and running backs Aaron Jones (torn MCL) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) did not practice; Bulaga is headed to injured reserve and Jones won't play. Without their two leading rushers, the Packers will lean on fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams, who carried 20 times for 67 yards against Chicago -- all in the second half.
Baltimore is coming off its bye -- the second consecutive week the Packers will have faced a team with an extra week of rest.
Running back Danny Woodhead, who is on injured reserve (hamstring), could return this week for Baltimore.
"I think you got a little taste of Danny the first week and what he can do," Flacco said. "He's also a guy that knows what he's doing in protection and can give you a lot of things, obviously. We all know he's a good athlete. He catches the ball out of backfield well and does a lot of those things. I know he's out here working to get himself healthy and get himself going. So, we'll see."
Updated November 15, 2017