NFC Divisional Round Preview: Los Angeles Rams vs. Green Bay Packersby MJ Hurley January 12, 2021 0 comments
The best defense in the NFL faces off against the best offense with a trip to the NFC Championship on the line. Other than another rendition of the first Nickelodeon playoff Slime Zone, what more could we ask for?
After defeating the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round, the Los Angeles Rams and their top-ranked defense earned a trip to Lambeau Field. Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald will face off against Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers for the first time since Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur became head coaches. After setting record after record in the regular season, the Packers’ dynamic duo will now turn their attention to a championship run.
The last time Green Bay was the top seed in the NFC was during Aaron Rodgers’s incredible MVP season in 2011. The Packers were 15-1 in that season and appeared destined to begin a dynastic run after winning the Super Bowl the year prior. Eli Manning and the New York Giants smashed the Packers, 37-20, and Rodgers has not held the top seed in the NFC since.
Rodgers has been preaching the importance of home-field advantage all season. With around 6,000 ticketed fans and some friends, family, and first responders in the stands, Green Bay will have their first true home game of the season just in time.
Los Angeles is trying to return to the NFC Championship for the first time since defeating the New Orleans Saints in 2018 en route to their Super Bowl loss against the New England Patriots. With the 24th-ranked offense in the NFL, the Rams will rely on their top-ranked defense to slow down Aaron Rodgers and give Jared Goff a chance to make magic in the frozen tundra.
The Rams have some injury concerns, which is one of the biggest benefits of having a first-round bye. Donald, Cooper Kupp, and backup quarterback John Wolford all suffered various levels of injuries in the game against the Seahawks, which could seriously hinder the Rams’ ability to execute their ideal game plan against Green Bay. With a shorter week due to the game being on Saturday, the Rams will have to hurry to heal their star players before traveling to Green Bay on Friday night.
Assuming Donald is healthy, what does Rodgers have to worry about? The last time Rodgers faced the Rams was in 2018. That happened to be the last season of Mike McCarthy’s regime in Green Bay. Rodgers struggled in that game with only one touchdown and 286 yards passing. Aaron Donald had two sacks and feasted on the Packers’ offensive line.
Now, though, the Packers have the No. 2-rated offensive line in the NFL, even with All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari lost to a torn ACL.
The other primary matchup will be Jalen Ramsey against Davante Adams. Considered the top at each of their respective positions, the two have only faced off once in their careers. During Ramsey’s rookie year in Jacksonville, he drew the assignment of Adams during the 2016 matchup between the Jaguars and Packers. With Jordy Nelson still the lead receiver, Adams excelled in that game with three catches, 50 yards, and a touchdown. Even if Ramsey shuts down Adams, Green Bay should be alright given their history without Adams this season.
Against the New Orleans Saints, who ended as the fifth-ranked defense in the NFL, Rodgers and the Packers posted 37 points without Adams. The next week, they spotted 30 points against the Falcons without Adams or Allen Lazard on the field. Rodgers has the benefit of a true trio in Adams, Lazard, and Marques Valdes-Scantling to trust in any situation. Add to that a star tight end in Robert Tonyan and three capable running backs in Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and AJ Dillon and Rodgers has plenty of weapons for the first time in years.
The biggest concern for Green Bay defensively will be Rams running back Cam Akers. Against a stout Seahawks run defense, Akers scampered for 131 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. Although the Packers’ run defense has improved greatly since their breakdown game against Dalvin Cook in Week 7, Green Bay has a concerning history of allowing gashing running performances in the playoffs. After getting destroyed by the 49ers running game in 2019, and the old memories of Colin Kaepernick running wild on the Green Bay grass in January, Packers fans will hold their breath every time Akers touches the ball on Saturday.
Date: Saturday, Jan. 16, 2020
Start Time: 3:35 p.m. CT
Location: Green Bay, Wisc.
Stadium: Lambeau Field
TV Info: FOX
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Points Spread: LAR +7 (-110) | GB -7 (+110)
Moneyline: LAR (+280) | GB (-355)
Over/Under: O 46 (-110) | U 46 (-110)
The Packers averaged 31.8 points per game during the regular season and the Rams 23.3 points. Defensively, the Rams allowed only 18.5 points per game and the Packers surrendered 23.1. Assuming Rodgers does not fold, the Packers have only scored under 30 points three times during the season. The over should be safe, but with a playoff game, playing the spread could be dangerous. A play for the over and the Packers’ moneyline could be the best bet here.
Although the big matchups will be All-Pros against All-Pros, the smaller matchups will end up winning this game. Can Valdes-Scantling does not drop key passes and Allen Lazard make blocks on the edge? If so, Rodgers will have a much easier day. On the other side, if Jared Goff is healthier and has his full array of weapons, Jaire Alexander and Kevin King will have their hands full with Kupp and Robert Woods in the bootleg offense.
Ultimately, the Packers are in a better position to win this game. They are well-rested, have players to match all of the Rams’ strengths, and Rodgers is more motivated than ever. After Matt LaFleur made Sean McVay’s offense bigger and better, their first showdown is just days away. Such a clash will show who is truly the master of the bootleg now. Best of all? It comes with a trip to the NFC Championship on the line.
Final Score: Green Bay Packers 31, Los Angeles Rams 21
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