When one starts to dissect this Rams vs Packers NFL playoff game and attempts an NFC Divisional preview, a singular thing comes to mind right away. On one side of the ball, it is a huge battle of strength vs strength.
The two units in question, here, are Green Bay’s offense vs the Rams defense.
Green Bay–owners of the eighth-best running offense in the NFL–is going up against the Rams’ third-best in the league run defense. The Packers are averaging 132 rushing yards per game, while the Rams only allow a measly 93 yards on the ground per contest.
In the first quarter, this side of the ball will be the tone-setter for the rest of the game. If the Packers are able to run the ball early and can get to a quick lead, it will be a long day for a Rams team that has yet to complete a significant comeback all season. However, If the Rams are able to force a three and out or two to start the contest, they stand a chance, as long as they can get a quick lead of their own. So, let’s jump into the 2021 NFC Divisional Preview: Rams vs Packers.
Rams vs Packers NFC Divisional Preview: The Sensei and the Student
The fact that the Rams, with the more veteran coach, need everything to go right in order to win, just goes to show how well the Sean McVay pupil, Matt LaFleur, has coached this team since he took over before the 2019 season. This will be the first-ever matchup as head coaches between the old amigos, and the first time the two have been on the field together since the Rams lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.
Since that matchup, Lafleur and McVay have both thrived as two of the youngest and brightest coaches in the NFL. LaFleur parlayed a one year stint in 2018 as the offensive coordinator of the Titans into the head coaching job with the famed Green Bay Packers. In his first two years on the job, Lafleur has put up a slightly better record than McVay did in his first two seasons. Lafleur is an amazing 26-6 while McVay comes in with a not too shabby 24-8 record.
As for recent Rams vs Packers action, the two have not met since October of 2018 when the packers were coached by Mike McCarthy. In that game, the Packers were set to receive a late-game kickoff down by just two with a chance to win the game with a field goal. Luckily for the Rams, kick returner Ty Montgomery infamously fumbled the kickoff and the Rams subsequently ran the clock out.
NFC Divisional Preview: Rams vs Packers
After we get past the great coaches on both sides of the ball, it is time to get to the players; there are several future hall-of-fame players that will be on the field this Saturday.
First up on the Rams vs Packers NFC divisional preview, let’s talk about the Packers’ offense vs the Rams defense. Obviously, you know about Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams. Those three are the “Triplets” that the Rams must stop first and foremost. That is easier said than done, however, as Rodgers has thrown for 4300 yards and 48 touchdown passes this year. Jones has chipped in with 1100 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground and Adams has been his dominant self with a ridiculous 1374 yards receiving, 18 touchdowns, and an 11.9 yards per catch average.
There does not seem like much wiggle room for the Rams to make any mistakes, but they might have one saving grace. There is absolutely no way that LA can win a shootout with this version of Jared Goff or John Wolford, meaning they have to keep the score down. Before this NFC divisional preview started to even be thought of, the Packers lost All-World tackle David Bakhtiari, an irreplaceable piece of their offense, to a season-ending knee injury. It will be interesting to see how Green Bay responds without its best blocker and one of their team leaders.
NFC Divisional Preview: Rams vs Packers Continued
Next up on the Rams vs Packers NFC divisional preview, let’s discuss the other side of the ball. When superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald and his opponent, Rodgers, are off the field, the Rams must try as hard as they can to keep it that way for as long as possible. That starts with the run and luckily, Cam Akers is playing like a man possessed, and the Rams are currently sitting pretty with seven healthy offensive linemen who have all played big snaps this year. This allows them to keep their lineman fresh during the week without sacrificing any of Akers’ valuable snaps.
It is also important that the teams try to win the turnover battle. LA is a perfect 7-0 in 2020 when they win they get more takeaways than their opponent. That makes them just 3-6 when they lose the turnover battle or come to a draw. A good way to hold back on turnovers is to throw the ball less and run the ball more.
Green Bay has improved upon a league-worst run defense in 2019 to make it into the top-13 in 2020. Still, over their last three games, they are back up to allowing 126.3 yards per game, which is almost equal to their paltry average from last season. As the weather has gotten colder over these last three games, Green Bay did not seem like a team that is built for the cold. Fans of the Packers that are reading this NFC divisional preview, should now be fully aware of the importance that the run game will be to both squads on Sunday.
NFC Divisional Preview: Who Has the Edge in Rams vs Packers
The Packers are playing on their home field in 25-degree weather and they are running the ball better than anyone. That is going to be hard to crack unless the Rams can find some weaknesses along the Packers’ offensive line (no Bakhtiari) and thus are able to get Akers rolling. Cam Akers is the entire key to the Rams’ part in this NFC divisional preview. He MUST get going.
The Rams defense has been masterful all season long, but how much magic do they have left? Hopefully, they can pressure the Packers into at least one turnover. At some point, though, the offense is going to have to step up and win a game and for the Rams, it is now or never. The Packers will not be beaten by anything less than your absolute best. If you only take one thing away from this NFC divisional preview, take this. No team will win on Saturday without playing their best game of the season.
Here’s the kicker, though, I think the Rams have what it takes to hang with the Packers in a low OR high scoring game. Either quarterback who is in there will be extremely focused and motivated to keep the job, hopefully locking their mind into not turning the ball over. All the Rams need under center is competency. If they can do that, then this running game can lead the Rams to a victory.
The amount of things that need to go right for the Packers to win simply pales in comparison to the things that the Rams need to go right on Saturday. There are more avenues to seeing a Packers victory, but this one feels like “upset city” to me. The Rams are (once again) the underdog against a playoff-caliber opponent. The first time it did not go well, Jared Goff broke his thumb, and the Rams lost the division crown to the Seahawks. The second time they were underdogs, however, they used that as extra motivation and went out and beat Seattle by double digits.
NFC Divisional Preview: Prediction for Rams vs Packers
You cant have an NFC Divisional preview without a prediction, right? As much as my brain is telling me that the Packers are unbeatable lately, my gut is going the opposite way. I would like to listen to Vegas and take the Packers plus the points but instead, I’m gonna go with my instincts. Sorry Packers fans, the run-defense just has not improved enough, the Rams stop the run better than anyone, and the extra week off will make Green Bay rusty. If the Rams get a halftime lead, it’s a wrap; we all know what Sean McVay’s record is when leading at halftime.
NFC Divisional preview prediction: Rams 20 Packers 17
Thanks for reading my 2021 NFC divisional preview of the Rams vs Packers big NFL playoff matchup.