Packers will have their hands full against the Rams defense
The stage is set. Now we wait for the lights to go dim.
A loss by the Chicago Bears on Sunday in New Orleans officially gave the Green Bay Packers their opponent for next weekend’s divisional round. Next Saturday, the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Rams will travel to Lambeau Field to face the Packers. It will arguably be the toughest opponent Green Bay has faced all year. But hey, it’s the playoffs, so that’s to be expected.
The Rams possess something the Packers haven’t seen all year. For one, let’s start with their top-ranked defense. Los Angeles surrendered just 281.9 yards per game in 2020. They allow 190.7 yards through the air, while Aaron Rodgers and company average 256.6 yards in the passing game alone. Overall, Green Bay finished fifth in total offense, averaging 389 yards per game, and was first in scoring (31.8 ppg).
The Rams defense has put together some compelling performances against one of the league’s top quarterbacks this season. In three games, including Saturday’s playoff matchup, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson struggled with sacks and turnovers against Los Angeles. Wilson threw three interceptions and was sacked 16 times by the Rams defense this year.
As a team, Los Angeles had no problems sacking the quarterback in 2020. They finished second in the NFL with 53 sacks. Of course, it all starts up front with defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Donald is an indisputable candidate for his third NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after totaling 45 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles this season. He’s in a class of his own, and the Packers haven’t faced a player of his caliber all year.
The interior of the offensive line will have their hands full when they face Donald on Saturday. Green Bay would like to have either Pro-Bowler Elgton Jenkins or All-Pro Corey Linsley matched up on Donald as much as possible. However, the Rams are probably going to try to get him as many reps as they can one on one against guard Lucas Patrick. How the Packers approach that matchup will definitely be something worth monitoring.
Although, Donald may not be 100 percent next weekend. He exited the Wild Card game against Seattle with an apparent rib injury, but head coach Sean McVay said he expects Donald to play this week after x-rays came back negative.
Not only will Green Bay need to worry about Donald, but outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has seen his career blossom since signing with Los Angeles this offseason. The Packers are used to facing Floyd from his time with the Bears, but this season he reached double-digit sacks for the first time in his career.
Floyd and Donald combined for four sacks against Wilson on Saturday.
When you’re talking about the Los Angeles defense, you can’t forget about their secondary. Led by All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey, the Rams had the No. 1 overall coverage grade, according to Pro Football Focus. By comparison, Los Angeles finished with a grade of 88.6, while Green Bay had an 80.4 (5th).
Ramsey will likely draw the attention of the Packers’ top receiver Davante Adams. Ramsey vs. Adams will be headlined as a heavyweight fight when it comes to corners facing wide receivers. Both are in the conversation for being the best player at their respective position, and who edges who next Saturday could weigh heavily on the outcome.
There are a lot of unknowns about this game, however, one thing we know with absolute certainty is that one of the NFL’s top offenses will square off against the top defense. We also know that Green Bay hasn’t faced a defense like the Rams all year. It’s time to see who is more dominant.