Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2020 Divisional Round

Head coaches with history, Cal quarterbacks, and more in this week's six pack. 

You may have read about some of the stuff in this week’s six pack already, as this is going to be quite the matchup between two very different teams, but I thought going into the Divisional Round we could look at six of the best storylines that surround Saturday’s game: 

1. McVay vs LaFleur

As we all know, this Saturday will pit Matt LaFleur against Sean McVay for the first time. LaFleur was with the Rams in 2017 as McVay’s offensive coordinator before moving laterally to the Titans in 2018 where he had the opportunity to call plays. 

McVay has a 43-21 record through his first four seasons as a head coach, including 3-2 in the postseason. He also became the youngest head coach to lead a team to the Super Bowl in 2018 when he went 13-3 in his second year with the Rams.

Matt LaFleur sits at 26-6 in his first two seasons with the Packers, including a record of 1-1 in the playoffs. In 2017 when LaFleur was the Rams offensive coordinator, he helped the team lead the league in scoring, averaging 29.9 points per game. Now with the Packers in 2020, LaFleur once again boasts an explosive offense, again leading the league in points for with an average of 31.8 points per game. 

2. No Time for Turnovers 

The Rams are the league’s number one defense for plenty of reasons, and one of those reasons is the unit’s ability to score touchdowns. In LA’s last seven games, the Rams have scored a defensive touchdown in five of those matchups, with four pick-sixes and one fumble returned for a touchdown. 

On the flip side of that, the Packers are 11-0 this season when they don’t turn the ball over. Winning that turnover battle is going to be key on Saturday. For the season, Green Bay sits at +7 in turnover differential while the Rams are -3. Protecting the football will be paramount.

3. Battle of the Cal QBs

If Jared Goff is indeed the guy under center for the Rams on Saturday, it’ll be a matchup between two quarterbacks that attended the University of California. Goff wasn’t supposed to be the starter on Wild Card Weekend but was forced to fill in after John Wolford was knocked out of the game. Being only a few weeks removed from surgery on his throwing thumb, Goff played well against the Seahawks, acting as the game manager the team needed him to be. On the night, Goff threw only nine completions on 19 attempts for 155 yards and one touchdown with no picks, giving him a quarterback rating of 93.1.

Of course we know who the other Cal quarterback is, and that’s Rodgers. He’s coming off a record-setting season for the Packers, throwing 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He had a career-best completion percentage of 70.7% in 2020 and his quarterback rating of 121.5 is the second in league history behind only his 2011 rating of 122.5. 

Quarterback play will only tell part of the story on Saturday, but the Packers have the best one in the business lining up for them, and that helps, especially in the Frozen Tundra. It’s supposed to be in the mid-20s at kickoff, which won’t bode well for Goff and his surgically-repaired thumb. While one quarterback thrives in the lower temperatures, look for the Rams offense to funnel through running back Cam Akers. In the Wild Card game, Akers rushed 28 times for 131 yards and a touchdown, giving him an average of 4.7 yards per carry. The Rams use play action the most in the NFL, so the use of Akers will also help set up the passing game for LA.

4. Going For Gold 

If you’ve been a Six Pack reader all season, you may remember the Week 9 piece I wrote calling the Packers red zone defense inexcusable. At the time, Green Bay was allowing scoring on 100% of trips to the red zone. 

Now, as the Packers head into the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the defense has improved dramatically. In Week 9, Green Bay was allowing a touchdown on 73.91% of trips to the red zone which was good for 28th in the NFL. Currently, the Packers have allowed 30 touchdowns on 52 trips, bringing the team’s percentage down to 57.7%. This gives the Packers the eighth best red zone defense in the league. 

The Rams defense is actually just slightly worse in the red zone, ranked 12th in the NFL allowing 27 touchdowns on 46 attempts for a percentage of 58.7%. That defense will be tested on Saturday against the league’s number one scoring offense. 

We know the Packers perform well in the gold zone, scoring touchdowns on 48 of 60 trips this season (80%). That’s first in the NFL, and it’s no surprise considering the Packers led the league in points for with 509 on the year. 

Sustained drives will also be key even before the gold zone. The Packers offense ranks second in the NFL on third down conversions, but the Rams are third in the league in third down defense. 

5. All-Pros All Over 

There are exceptional battles set to take place on Saturday between some of the best in football. On the perimeter, All-Pro Davante Adams should see plenty of snaps opposite All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. On the line, first-year All-Pro center Corey Linsley will see reps against All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. 

And that’s not factoring in the presumed MVP and All-Pro quarterback under center for the Packers in Rodgers, either. Beyond the All-Pro matchups, this is the number one ranked offense against the number one ranked defense. 

This is a Rams defense that’s generating a ton of pressure in addition to those scores we talked about in No. 2. Against Russell Wilson last week, the Rams had five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. While Donald might be limited with a rib injury, there are still plenty of playmakers on defense to account for, including former Chicago Bear Leonard Floyd who’s second on the team in sacks.

On offense, if Adams is locked down for any stretch, the Packers will need additional playmakers to step up like Robert Tonyan, who finished the year with 11 touchdowns, tying a franchise record. Or maybe Aaron Jones will be the guy, going up against a stingy Rams defense that’s allowing an average of only 3.8 yards per attempt (Jones’ season average is 5.5).

We’re in for a chess match on Saturday to see how McVay and LaFleur scheme their best players free. 

6. Fans in the Stands!

The home-field advantage is going to be huge on Saturday. Not only is a warm weather LA team traveling east to Wisconsin, but there will be approximately 8,000-9,000 fans in the stands rooting for the Packers. That energy has been missing from Lambeau Field all season. 

Per the dope sheet, Green Bay is 5-1 in Divisional Round matchups following a bye week, with the most recent victory coming 28-23 against the Seattle Seahawks last year. What’s more, the Packers are also 7-1 at home in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Every game is different, but that’s some pretty nice history on Green Bay’s side, and this further illustrates why players were so adamant about getting the playoffs to roll through Lambeau Field. 

The Packers know what’s at stake, and that’s a shot at an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau for the first time in Rodgers’ career. But first thing’s first: just beat the Rams. 

If you’re going to be at the stadium Saturday, make sure you get loud and Go Pack Go! 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (9)

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mnbadger's picture

January 15, 2021 at 06:41 am

This far into the season, we now know exactly who these teams are. Thank you Maggie for putting this summary together for us. I'm expecting somebody to perform way above or below their normal level to make a big difference in this game. For Pack, think JKScott. This could be a career defining game for him. If he excels, we win. If not, he doesn't come back next year. Pack 23-19. GJKSG, GPG!

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PeteK's picture

January 15, 2021 at 10:51 am

Or maybe we won't need him that often.(fingers crossed)

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murf7777's picture

January 15, 2021 at 07:06 am

Turnovers is always the key to winning. This is one of the reason Aaron is so great. I feel strongly if we are equal or better in TO’s we win this game by double digits. TO’s is the only thing keeping the Packers from scoring 24+ points. Remember, the Rams give up 23 PPG when playing away, 10 more points from their home games. 27-16 Packers win, take it to Vegas at your own risk:)

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Leatherhead's picture

January 15, 2021 at 10:38 am

Yeah. Protecting the rock is key. That’s why protecting the guy who has the rock is so important. I think it’s THE key as to the rest of the season.

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PeteK's picture

January 15, 2021 at 11:17 am

Great job on a very comprehensive article, Maggie. Rogers has never played a championship game at home. A fact that I probably forgot because of the pain. Injuries, for Goff, Donald, and Kupp( while improved) will slow the Rams enough for us to hopefully make it an easier win.

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TXCHEESE's picture

January 16, 2021 at 07:00 am

One word, execution. GB is the better team. If they play their game, they win by 7+.

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mnbadger's picture

January 16, 2021 at 09:21 am

TX, you nailed it. Concise summary while the rest of us babble on, less than 20 words. Beautiful. I can start my morning as I know all I need to know pre-game. Pack 23-19. GPG

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sohankhan's picture

January 16, 2021 at 09:52 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.

FOR FREE :https://kotvlive.blogspot.com/NFL/

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tonys247's picture

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