GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers (13-3) will host the Los Angeles Rams (11-6) on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Here are three reasons to be concerned.
1. Can Adams Get Open?
Davante Adams hasn’t faced anyone like Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey hasn’t faced anyone like Adams.
“I respect Jalen’s game,” Adams said. “He’s at the top of that list, for sure. I think there’s probably like three, three or four super-elite, is what I like to call them, corners. And he’s definitely one of those guys. He’s been playing at a high level, got great confidence. Does a lot of barking, which feeds into his confidence more. And you know, he’s made a lot of plays. He’s definitely earned that and he’s a good player.”
The Packers’ high-flying offense flows through the right arm of Aaron Rodgers and the golden hands and feet of Adams. Adams has been practically unstoppable all season with his 115 receptions setting the franchise record and his 18 touchdown receptions tying the franchise record and ranking third in NFL history. Of the 16 receivers with 87-plus catches this season, Adams was No. 1 in catch percentage. He tied Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins for the lowest drop rate.
Adams figures to see a lot of Ramsey. According to Zebra Sports, whose RFID technology powers the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Ramsey has been dominant against elite receivers.
- In Week 10 against Seattle’s DK Metcalf, Ramsey shadowed him on 71 percent of passing plays and held him to zero catches on two targets.
- In Week 11 against Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Ramsey shadowed him on 73 percent of passing plays and held him to 4-of-7 passing for 40 yards.
- In Week 16 against Metcalf, he shadowed him on 66 percent of passing plays and held him to 1-of-2 passing for 11 yards.
- In Week 17 against Hopkins, he shadowed him on 75 percent of passing plays and held him to 2-of-7 passing for 28 yards.
- In Saturday’s wild-card game, Ramsey shadowed Metcalf on 69 percent of passing plays and limited him to 3-of-7 passing for 33 yards.
As phenomenal as Adams has been, is it possible Ramsey is the Kryptonite?
2. Can Anyone Get Open Before Donald Arrives?
If Ramsey wins that matchup, where can the Packers turn to score enough points to win the game? Can Aaron Jones get going if a safety can play the run rather than help cover Adams? Can Allen Lazard or Marquez Valdes-Scantling get open often enough? Robert Tonyan?
Against a weak pass rush, Rodgers might be able to go through his progressions and find another option. But with indomitable Aaron Donald, the Rams’ pass rush ranked second in the league in sack percentage. Donald led the NFL with 98 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s 27 more than any other defender. Rodgers did not perform well under pressure. The NFL’s most accurate passer overall was a sub-50 percent passer when feeling the heat.
“It’s very rare that you have an impact player that rushes from the inside,” Rodgers said. “There’s just not as much space. J.J. Watt has done it for a long time and also done it on the edge, but most of the real, real impact players when it comes to pass rush are edge rushers. A little different with 99. He’s a special, special player. Obviously, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Impact player every single year, a guy that you have to game plan for, have to be aware of where he’s at at all times, and just one of those special talents that we haven’t seen a whole lot of in the history of the game.”
3. Finishing Strong
What if it’s a close game in the fourth quarter? What if Green Bay’s offense has sputtered and the Cam Akers-led Rams running game has gotten going? What if its offense, so dominant on third down all season, has grown frustrated after a series of third-down failures? What if its defense is out of gas?
For all of Green Bay’s dominance this season, the scoring breakdown is noteworthy. The Packers have outscored teams by a league-high 136 points in the first half but are 21st at minus-14 in the fourth quarter. The Rams, on the other hand, are fourth in the league at plus-43 in the final period.
With a powerful defense and a promising running back, the Rams have the ingredients to put teams away. To that end, the Packers certainly could use one of their typically strong starts to get some breathing room and force the ball into the hands of whoever lines up at quarterback for Los Angeles.