The Los Angeles Rams hit the road to play against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs. As they have done all season, the Rams will travel the day before the game on Friday, touching ground in Green Bay this evening for a Saturday afternoon kickoff.
The Rams finished 4-4 away from SoFi Stadium during the regular season but earned a nice road win against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card round last week. They look to keep the momentum going against the Packers. Winners of two in a row, the Rams have not one three straight all season.
Quarterback Jared Goff is dealing with a broken thumb on his right throwing hand and has struggled in cold-weather games during his time as a pro, finishing 35-of-73 (48 percent) for 336 passing yards, with zero touchdown passes in and five interceptions in two games with temperatures below freezing level.
The Rams also face a team in the Green Bay Packers that has had an extra week to rest and prepare. Since the 2011 season, No. 1 seeds are 14-4 in the divisional round of the playoffs. The last time as No. 6 seed defeated a No. 1 seed was the Tennessee Titans manhandling the Baltimore Ravens 28-12 in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs last season.
So, it will be an uphill climb for the Rams to get a win, but not impossible.
“It’s a great challenge for us,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “We’re doing everything in our power to prepare in all three phases. Our players have a great look in their eye. There’s a focus, there’s a concentration, there’s a belief, but there’s also an understanding of what a great effort and what great execution that we’re going to have to have to go get it done against a 13-3 football team that is playing outstanding in all three phases.
“That’s what you love about it as a competitor, this is what gets you excited to get a chance to just compete every single week. Now, here represents an opportunity to go against what is the best in the NFC.”
Aaron Rodgers is the frontrunner for NFL MVP for a reason. At 37-years-old, Rodgers is having one of his best seasons as a pro, throwing for 4,299 passing yards, 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the rest of the Rams’ defensive line will have their hands full trying to stop the No. 1 offense in the NFL. Rodgers is good in cold weather, still has one of the best arms in the game and is accurate. And he can distort the defense by buying time with his feet. The Rams will have to be disciplined in their rush lanes and make sure to keep Rodgers bottled up. “You’re just trying to find ways to affect him,” Donald said. “If that’s quarterback hits, in his face, chasing him around, not letting him be comfortable, we’re doing our job. But if you let him sit in the pocket, you let him move around comfortably, sit on the field and make things happen, it can be a long day for us. We have to do our job as pass rushers and as a defensive line, as far as affecting in all different types of ways and not letting it be an easy day for him.”
One to watch
Cam Akers finished with 176 yards from scrimmage in a win for the Rams over Seattle last week. The Rams will need a similar performance from the Florida State product to have a chance against the Packers. Specifically, the Rams need Akers to grind out yards on the ground and first downs, playing keep away from Green Bay’s potent offense. The Packers were No. 1 in the NFL in time of possession (32:29) during the regular season, but the Rams were No. 2 (32:01). In Green Bay’s three losses, they allowed an average of 157 rushing yards a contest.
Fun to watch
Jalen Ramsey has been at his best against the top receivers in the NFL. Since Week 9, Ramsey has shadowed Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins twice and DK Metcalf three times, allowing an average of two receptions for 29 receiving yards on seven targets. The Packers move Davante Adams around the formation a good amount to shake him loose offensively. So, it’s hard to anticipate how much Ramsey and Adams will be lined up across from each other on Saturday. But when they do, it will be must-watch TV.
Key to the game
The Rams have to get at least 120 rushing yards, not turn the ball over, put Rodgers on the ground at least eight times with a four-man pass rush and create at least five plays of 20-plus yards to have a chance in this game. Easy, right? And special teams need a momentum-changing play -- in a positive way for the Rams. With Cooper Kupp (knee), Andrew Whitworth (knee), Donald (rib) and Goff (thumb) all nursing injuries, and Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur having an extra week to game plan for a head coach he knows intimately in McVay, that could be too much for the Rams to overcome. It may seems like a long time ago, but this is the same team that lost 23-20 to the previously winless New York Jets in Week 15.
Packers 27, Rams 21