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Key Matchups: Packers vs. Rams-The Battle of Hollywood Stars

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Key Matchups: Packers vs. Rams-The Battle of Hollywood Stars

As the Packers prepare to run the gamut this Sunday at the LA Coliseum, they come in as ten point underdogs (depending on where you get such information) and have been given little to no chance of leaving the bright lights of Los Angeles with a win.   Coach Mike McCarthy’s phrase of “we’re nobody’s underdogs” will certainly be put to the test given the Rams elite talent on offense, defense, and special teams.  

Despite Fox’s weak promotion of this game showcasing Aaron Rodgers taking on the 7-0 Rams (one player versus an entire team), there are actually some key, intriguing matchups that the Packers will need to win, in order to hand the Rams their first loss of the season.  

Key Matchups:

1. The Packers Offensive Line vs. Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh:

The success or failure of the Packers offensive line will depend on whether they can contain the Rams dominant two-headed monster pass rush of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.  Donald and Suh are one of the NFL's best pass-rushing tandems and according to pro football focus, rank respectively as the #1 (Donald) and #37 (Suh) defensive players in the sport.  In order for the Packers to consistently move the ball down the field against the Rams defense, the offensive line must control the point of attack in both their pass blocking as well as their run blocking so that they are able to stabilize the tempo of the game and have a balanced offensive attack.

A look inside the numbers suggests that the Packers offensive line is more than capable of stabilizing the point of attack and containing the Rams pass rush and run defense.  The Packers offensive line has already been tested by the likes of the Bears and Redskins, who are two of the best defenses in the NFL and was able to keep Aaron Rodgers upright and move the ball by making big plays down the field.  This big play ability against top defenses is largely due to the tandem at the tackle positions of David Bakhtiari and Brian Bulaga having a pass blocking efficiency percentage of 98.6 and 96.9 respectively.  Fortunately, this dominance in pass blocking efficiency has been passed down to the center, guards, and backups, as every one of the Packers offensive linemen who has seen playing time this season has a pass blocking efficiency of at least 96.1%.  

The key to successful drives on offense will be to have an effective run, pass balance so that the play calling is not completely predictable. This will allow the Packers run blocking to be aided by the unpredictability of their playcalling along with the Rams 28th ranked rushing defense.  

2. The Packers Run Blocking/ Running Game Vs. The Rams Front Seven:

The Rams 28th ranked run defense coupled with Aaron Jones elusiveness and a balanced offensive attack will allow the Packers to stabilize the game and quiet the large Coliseum crowd.  The Packers must use the same recipe that the opposition uses against them, which is to run the ball and keep the (Rams) offense off of the field by winning the time of possession battle.  Mike McCarthy MUST stay committed to and not abandon the run.  The running back by committee of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Ty Montgomery should see 25-30 rush attempts and even more touches with their involvement in the screen game.

I realize that I sound like a broken record, but it is imperative that Aaron Jones gets 20 carries this Sunday!  His 5.9 yards per carry, as well as his ability to gain yards after contact plays right into what the Packers want to do on offense, which is, sustain long, time-consuming drives which will keep the Rams high powered offense off of the field.

3. The Packers Front Seven Vs. Todd Gurley:

The Packers front seven certainly has their work cut out for them as they attempt to contain Sean McVay's creative and innovative offensive attack.  McVay's offense is one of the leagues' best because he is able to utilize all of his skill players in various different fashions.  For example, they have been known to use wide receivers like Cooper Kupp (doubtful to play) and Brandon Cooks on jet sweeps or inside handoffs while also having the ability to split Todd Gurley out wide to utilize his ability as a receiver whenever they choose to.  Needless to say, Sean McVay puts his offensive unit in optimal positions to succeed, and in turn, he receives an optimal production from them.

However, in-spite-of McVay's ingenious playcalling and innovative thinking, the Rams offense still boils down to the success of one single player, Todd Gurley.  In order for the Packers to win this game, they must prevent the Rams from establishing Gurley in the running game because he is the key to unlocking their high powered passing offense downfield through play action.  Mike Pettine and the Packers defense are going to have to show the Rams different looks throughout the game.  In some situations, they will have to put five players in the box and drop six and in other situations, they will have to load the box with six or seven players and drop four or five players.  

This game will certainly be a statement game for the Packers front seven as well as their secondary as both personnel units are going to be put in situations in which they have to make impact plays.  The young cornerbacks are certainly going to be put in some positions where they will have to defend in one on one coverage and the front seven will be put in situations where they have to beat their man to get to either Jared Goff or Todd Gurley.  The Packers elite defensive line will have to step up and earn their paychecks in order to win this game on Sunday and Kenny Clark will have an opportunity to be recognized as a top ten defensive player in this league.  In my estimation, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, Dean Lowry, and Blake Martinez must play their best games of the season in order for the Packers to win.  

4. The Field Position Battle:

One of the reasons why the Rams are the best team in the NFL is because they have explosive playmakers in all three phases of the game.  The Rams special teams unit is just as explosive as their offensive and defensive units which is why I decided to spotlight the matchup between Cory Littleton and the Packers punt protection unit.  Last week, Littleton blocked his second punt of the season which led to a safety and good field position for the Rams on their next offensive possession following the free kick.  Littleton's superb play on special teams is not something unique to this season, on the contrary, Littleton has the habit of getting to the punter and has four blocked punts in the last two seasons.

Ron Zook will certainly have to be on high alert and line the punt unit up in max protection formations to prevent Littleton or any of the other rushers from getting anywhere near JK Scott.  Conversely, the Packers punt team must be able to protect and cover punts allowing JK Scott to consistently pin the Rams deep in their own territory.  The Packers cannot win this game if they allow the Rams to consistently operate on short fields throughout the game.  

The Packers return game must make intelligent decisions with the ball by not taking unnecessary risks bringing kick and punt returns out unless their blockers have provided running lanes for them down the field.   The Packers have to avoid allowing the game to go sideways on a blocked punt and must make sure to win the average starting field position battle because there really is not a margin for error when you are facing a Rams team that is as complete as this one.  The way that I see it, in order to defeat the Rams, the Packers will need to have a couple of big returns to allow their offense to work on a short field and get a quick score.

Recipe for Victory:

  1. Run and Pass Block
  2. Have a balanced offensive attack
  3. Have long sustained drives
  4. Keep the Rams offense off of the field
  5. Contain Todd Gurley
  6. Packers defense makes a game changing play
  7. Protect JK Scott and win the field position battle

Sunday Predictions:

  • I am predicting that the Packers lose a well fought 41-31 shootout in LA, making next Sunday Night's matchup in New England a season-defining game. 
  • Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff will both throw for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns.
  • Both defenses will surrender 400 yards of total offense.
  • The Packers defense will hold Todd Gurley to 90 yards and a touchdown.
  • We will still be upset with the amount that Aaron Jones touches the ball.
  • Mike McCarthy's play calling goes through a questionable, stagnate few series at a crucial point in the game.
  • Kentrell Brice gets burned on multiple occasions as McVay picks on him relentlessly throughout the game.  
  • Nickell Robey-Coleman is an x-factor in this game.  

David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (18) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tarynfor12's picture

The last time I seen a list like this ( Recipe for Victory ) that came true was the one I made out as a child and handed to my Dad knowing he was Santa...yes, all magically appeared under the tree.
The problem here is McCarthy may be able to look like Santa but he certainly doesn't have the bag to produce the gifts.
Why some still believe is beyond me..in Santa at least.

Since '61's picture

In your 7 points recipe for victory you are missing getting pressure on Goff. Our DL needs to win the LOS or Gurley will run all over the place.

As for your predictions unless the Packers score a TD on every possession, so 10 TDs assuming 10 possessions, MMs play calling will be criticized by some on this blog even though Aaron Rodgers calls the plays at the LOS.
Only a 70-0 or more Packer victory will prevent criticism of the coaches and players for many of the bloggers here.

Regrettably your final score is probably pretty close to what might happen on Sunday evening. However, I'm counting on Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers to another late game cardiac type game winning drive with possibly another last second FG by Crosby. Packers 38-35. The games are not played on paper or on Madden or other toys, much to Nagler's chagrin. As a result I never give up a game that has yet to be played and I look forward to the Packers finding a way to win.

Don't beat themselves. No excuses, no prisoners. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

Kb999's picture

61, I hope your right. Our D needs to keep Goff off the field and Rodgers on the field. agree with Mr. David with winning the time of possession. That means we have to shut down Gurley. That will be a huge task.

Since '61's picture

Kb999 - Keeping Gurley in check is the key to stopping the Rams offense. If our defense can make the Rams one dimensional we can beat them. If not it will be a long day. Thanks, Since '61

PatrickGB's picture

Yes, I agree David. But I think that they get more yards in the run game then you predicted. I really see Rodgers getting a lot of yards in the air. The Rams will be expecting us to run the ball so play action needs to be effective. Alexander will be key in limiting their passing game. I think we will do well on paper.

Lare's picture

IMO the main thing the Packers need to do is not beat themselves. The Packers coaches don't hold any player accountable for mistakes, so the players need to take it upon themselves to play a clean game and not hurt their chances of winning.

The magic number is 10. Any combination of blown assignments, penalties and turnovers over 10 and the Packers will not win this game.

Rufus's picture

Lare, agreed there are times they look like the Keystone Cops. Blown assignments up the Gizzoo. I hope the bye week helped because there going to need all the help they can get. They better not get down by 20 points early because there not coming back against the Rams .

Ferrari Driver's picture

After reading your article, I have concluded that it is now impossible for us to win this game and I may go golfing tomorrow.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

This game, like most, will be decided by 1) turnovers/ turnover margin and 2) 3rd down conversions. We may not have answers for their line play in the first half but we’ve been pretty decent at fixing things at the half. If the turnovers are even, Rams by 7. If we’re +1, it’s anyone’s game. +2 and we win...and I’m betting on this happening.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

And 1.5) performance in the red zone. Can’t keep taking 3’s or banging them off the uprights.

Kb999's picture

Doug, well said. Also, they can't dig a deep hole early because the run game goes away and there passing every down to try to get back in the game.

DD's picture

Number one key is the run usage, schemes, and balance. Three things that MM hasn't done in 13 years. So change? Highly doubtful. Second, Pettines time to show how he puts players in the best position to win. We'll see today. Tomorrows comments will be we've changed and did it, or what the hell is MM doing. No in betweens. No feeble excuses by MM.

dobber's picture

The only way one of the prevalent comments tomorrow isn't "what the hell is MM doing?" is if the Packers beat the Rams soundly from the opening kickoff.

henry113's picture

Lets see how long it takes for Big Mike to abandon the run. We need to make stops on defense and get these guys off the field.

dobber's picture

There's nothing wrong with a ball-control passing game. ARod showed in 2016 that he could win games this way. I think this is actually going to be a "pass-to-run" kind of game.

henry113's picture

dobber,I hope your right , but MM did not display that in the previous games.

DD's picture

Hollywood has glamour and stars. Huge city with many pro teams that are not afraid to go out and spend money. We have cheese curds and little Green Bay, our one shining star. We spend our money on hunting clothes, Packer gear, and our stadium venues.

henry113's picture

DD, Amen brother

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