Green Bay Packers v. Rams: 7 Things to Watch For

Here are seven things to watch for as the Green Bay Packers take on the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs. 

In the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs, the Green Bay Packers will host the Los Angeles Rams. This is an intriguing matchup that comes with several high-profile individual matchups to keep our eyes on. Some of which include Matt LaFleur up against Sean McVay, Davante Adams against Jalen Ramsey, and Aaron Donald against Corey Linsley.
 
Now, these certainly aren't the only important matchups, and when it comes to winning a football game, it takes all 53, as they say, not just the stars. 
 
Each Packers' game day over on Twitter, I post what I'll be watching for during the game. However, with this week's game falling on a Saturday, I thought it would be a great opportunity to dive into that here in more detail. So in addition to the big time matchups that I mentioned above, here are seven other things to keep your eyes on.

Who steps up in the Packers' passing game?

Davante Adams is going to find some success on Saturday. Whether it's from the slot where Ramsey may not shadow him 100 percent of the time or out wide because he's just that good, he isn't going to be completely shutdown. 
 
With that said, this also likely isn't going to be the usual double-digit catch performance either. And that means that others will have to step up in the passing game. Rather than there being one player who takes over, as has often been the case this season, I expect it to be a collective effort from Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Robert Tonyan, and Aaron Jones.
 
But of this group, keep your eyes on Jones. Using pre-snap motion as well as out of the backfield, Green Bay can get Jones in space against the Rams' linebackers and take advantage of that matchup. 

Green Bay Packers offensive line

Not only will the interior offensive line be going against Aaron Donald -- a certified game wrecker -- but this entire Rams' defensive front has been one of the better units in the NFL this season. Entering the playoffs, the Rams were third in total pressures generated, first in sacks, and the 3.9 yards per carry they allowed ranked fourth.
 
We all know what Donald can do, but a few other names to keep your eyes on include Leonard Floyd, who posted 10.5 sacks this season and will primarily matchup with Rick Wagner.  Michael Brockers had five sacks of his own, and Sebastian Joseph-Day, along with Ogbonnia Okoronkwo are two other names to know. 

The Rams passing game

While everyone is focused on the Rams defense against the Packers offense, what's not being talked about enough is the other side of the ball; specifically, will the Rams be able to find any success through the air?
 
Goff hasn't played in below-freezing temperatures too often, but when he has, he's completed only 47 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and five interceptions. On top of that, he's still not that far removed from thumb surgery. 
 
The duo of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have put up some impressive numbers this season, but the Packers secondary with Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos, and Darnell Savage has been excellent in their own right, especially over the second half of the season. I expect moving the ball through the air to be difficult for the Rams. 

The big play

The Green Bay Packers have been one of the better teams this season at capitalizing on the big pass play, but they'll be up against a defense that has been the best this season at limiting it. According to Sharp Football, the Rams defense has allowed only 39 explosive pass plays, which are plays of at least 20 yards.
 
Similarly to Mike Pettine, Rams' Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley's M.O. is eliminating the big play. So if Green Bay is going to come away with a shot play or two, it's likely going to be a result of Matt LaFleur's play design rather than winning a one-on-one matchup. 

Stop Cam Akers

Similarly to last week, and the several weeks before that, the Green Bay Packers can expect a lot of rookie running back Cam Akers on Saturday. In four of his last five games, Akers has at least 20 carries, including two games with 28 and 29, respectively. 
 
Last week with John Wolford getting the start and Goff nursing an injured thumb, the Rams' offensive game plan was built around Akers, who had 176 all-purpose yards, with 131 on the ground. Green Bay's game plan should be slowing Akers, taking away easy completions from Goff, and forcing him to beat you with his arm. 

Special Teams and Turnovers

It's the playoffs, so special teams play, and any turnovers can be the difference between a win and a loss. If you're looking for some good news, as bad as the Green Bay special teams unit has been this season, ranking 25th by DVOA, the Rams have actually been worse, ranking 30th. With the Packer offense rolling and the defense peaking at the right time, the special teams unit doesn't have to be great by any means. They just need to eliminate those costly errors--which as we've seen, is easier said than done.
 
When it comes to turnovers, we all know that Aaron Rodgers is going to protect the ball, but on the flip side, the Rams 25 turnovers are the eighth-most in football this season. Not to mention that the Green Bay defense has been very good at forcing takeaways in recent weeks. 
 
Special teams play and turnovers, often overlooked, but either could be the difference in January. 

Packers run game 

We haven't seen this offense sputter much this season, but when they have, two of the culprits have been pressure on Rodgers and a struggling -- or abandoned -- run game. As I already mentioned, the Rams are allowing only 3.9 yards per carry, so even if it's not coming easy on the ground for the Packers, LaFleur can't solely rely on the passing game. Allowing this defensive front to pin their ears back is a recipe for disaster.
 
Running between the tackles is likely going to be tough sledding, you know, the Aaron Donald effect, but Green Bay may be able to find some success with their outside-zone running scheme. Getting Jones to the edge against these Los Angeles' linebackers should allow him to make some plays. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (17)

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flackcatcher's picture

January 15, 2021 at 12:46 pm

Nice overview Paul. In playoff football it usually comes down to execution on both sides of the ball. The Rams are a good team, but the Packers are better overall. Outside of unscouted looks, there should be no surprises for either team. X-factors like cold or player injuries will be a part of the ebb and flow as they always are. Other than the Vikings and Tampa Bay, the Packers have been well prepared for whatever the other teams have thrown at them this season. Moreover, this is a veteran group that forms the core of this Packer team. They know as a unit their time is running out, so expect the Packers to play with a real sense of urgency tomorrow.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 16, 2021 at 03:29 am

Rams Offensive line execution vs Seachicks was outstanding. It will come down to pressure on Goff.

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mnbadger's picture

January 15, 2021 at 12:59 pm

Great article Paul, plenty of new material and new perspective. I especially liked hearing that their ST's are ranked worse than ours. Packers in a tough but controlled slog: 23-19. GPG

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LayingTheLawe's picture

January 15, 2021 at 01:10 pm

Come on..... no one is worse than the Packers special teams. lol. well at least it's encouraging to see the Rams are most likely not making any big return pkays.

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canadapacker's picture

January 15, 2021 at 02:00 pm

I think that everybody that we have played lately have handled the wide receiver screen - dont know if we have tipped it off somehow or that they are guarding against it by tight coverage. In any case the Rams got a pick six on Seattle on it. I would like to see us fake it and send somebody long off of it. I also think that maybe Jones on a wheel route up the sideline might be available. Finally AR cannot only look for Adams on his first read if it means that he has to hold the ball too long - the D line is too good to be stopped if the ball is taking longer to get out. They also managed to contain Wilson who is a better scrambler than AR is now. So we need to get Lazard and Tonyon the ball early. I also hope that we get the motion going even if it means using MVS and Jones as that might make Adams versus Ramsay easier. I finally wouldnt underrate Akers he appears to be a steal of the draft better than the 3 RB's taken before him.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 15, 2021 at 02:11 pm

Using the RBs as pass receivers seems like a good idea to me. The Rams' ILBs are not a strength for them: Troy Reeder and Kenny Young.

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Coldworld's picture

January 15, 2021 at 06:34 pm

Seems like an opportunity for a lot of mesh concepts. If Lazard is truly fit this could be a big day for him.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 16, 2021 at 03:31 am

Equan for the wildcard.

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murf7777's picture

January 16, 2021 at 07:41 am

Hmmm....we haven’t seen a Jones wheel route for awhile.

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splitpea1's picture

January 15, 2021 at 04:21 pm

I hope the Packers will be alert for any special teams trickery coming from the Rams; punter Hekker hasn't tried any passes this season, but he's completed quite a few in the past. The Packers ST unit could be an inviting opportunity....I wouldn't be surprised to see an aggressive approach from McVey, knowing his offense could be a little hand-icapped.

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Dzehren's picture

January 15, 2021 at 09:08 pm

Stopping RB Cam Akers & forcing Jared Goff to throw the ball down field are keys. Make Snacks Harrison an extra DLineman & bring Amos closer to the line of Scrimmage. 4 DL hand in the dirt.
Make Goff beat you.

Like you stated, get Aaron Jones in motion and part of the passing attack with Davonte Adam’s.

Wonder what the plan will be for AJ Dillon?

Can’t wait. Go Pack Go.

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Philarod's picture

January 15, 2021 at 09:29 pm

It just feels like a big Aaron Jones day to me.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 16, 2021 at 03:33 am

Receiving.

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Dzehren's picture

January 16, 2021 at 11:08 am

Agreed. Jones out of the backfield against a LB will be a tough matchup for LA.

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sohankhan's picture

January 16, 2021 at 09:47 am

The Green Bay Packers come out of their bye week and hit the road to visit the Los Angeles Rams, who are the lone undefeated team in the NFL at 7-0. Here's a look at this series - past, present and future.

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