Rams playoff preview: 12 big things to know about the Packers
After taking down the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, the Los Angeles Rams will now face the top-seeded Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. It’s the Rams’ toughest test yet, especially with the game being played at frigid Lambeau Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Packers went 13-3 in the regular season, were almost unstoppable offensively and have a roster that’s littered with Pro Bowlers. And so Los Angeles will need to play its best game of the season to have a shot at upsetting the Packers.
To prepare you for Saturday’s game, here are 12 things to know about the Packers in advance of this NFC clash.
Highest-scoring team in the NFL
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The Packers were almost unstoppable on offense. They led the league with 509 points scored, which averages out to 31.8 per game – far better than the Rams’ average of 23.3 points per game. Green Bay also ranked fifth in yards, eighth in rushing, ninth in passing, first in scoring percentage and first in average time per drive. The Packers were remarkably consistent, too. They scored at least 30 points 12 times this season and only scored fewer than 22 points once.
Aaron Rodgers is likely to win MVP
Rodgers was unbelievably good this season. There’s no way around it. He led the league in completion percentage (70.7%), touchdown passes (48), interception percentage (1.0%), adjusted yards per attempt (9.6), passer rating (121.5) and QBR (84.4). But every measure, it was an MVP-caliber season, and he’s likely to take home the award next month. It was arguably the best season of his career, throwing for 4,299 yards with only five interceptions. The Packers would be a decent team without him, but they’re a great one thanks to No. 12.
Tied for NFL-high with four first-team All-Pros
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The Packers had six total All-Pros this season, four of whom were first-team selections. They were center Corey Linsley, Rodgers, Davante Adams and David Bakhtiari. On the second-team, edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and cornerback Jaire Alexander were recognized for their efforts. The Packers’ four first-team selections were tied with the Colts for the most in the NFL, and is also the most Green Bay has had in a season since 1967. So while Rodgers was the catalyst behind their 13-3 season, he was hardly the only impressive player on the Packers’ roster.
Fewest turnovers in football
When you have a quarterback who only throws five interceptions, your turnover totals are bound to be low. And the Packers’ certainly are. They committed an NFL-low 11 turnovers, which is six fewer than Jared Goff had on his own. The Packers fumbled it 11 times but only lost six of them, so they were fortunate to fall on the football often. But this is a team that simply doesn’t give the ball away. We’ll see if that changes against a dominant Rams defense.
Excellent in red zone and on third down
The Packers finished second in the NFL in third-down offense, converting nearly half of their attempts (49.4%). They were also the best red zone team in the NFL, scoring touchdowns on a whopping 80% of their trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Rams defense is excellent in both areas, but this will be a huge test for Los Angeles. If the Packers consistently convert on third down and don’t have to settle for field goals, it’ll be hard for the Rams offense to keep pace.
Davante Adams is a touchdown machine
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Here’s a stat for you. Adams caught 18 touchdown passes this season to lead the NFL, despite only playing 14 games. In 16 games, the Rams allowed only 17 total touchdown passes. So Adams himself scored more touchdowns through the air than the Rams allowed to all of their opponents combined. Adams does much more than just catch touchdown passes, too. He hauled in 115 of his 149 targets from Rodgers, gaining 1,374 yards and picking up 73 first downs. Jalen Ramsey will need to be at his very best against the Packers this weekend. https://twitter.com/mattschneidman/status/1348450170321707008
Sacks primarily come from one player
As a team, the Packers had 41 sacks this season, which is 12 fewer than the Rams had. A good portion of them came from one player: Za’Darius Smith. He had 12.5 on his own, with the next-closest Packer, Rashan Gary, recording five sacks. Smith isn’t the Packers’ only good pass rusher, but he is definitely their best – and he earned second-team All-Pro honors for it. Neutralizing him will be critical for Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein on the edge.
Zero missed field goals
The Rams struggled to find stability at kicker before Matt Gay arrived, but this has hardly been a weak spot for the Packers. Veteran Mason Crosby was perfect this season, making all 16 of his field goal attempts, which included four attempts from beyond 50 yards, and five more from 40-49 yards. He did miss four of his 63 extra point tries, but that’s still good for a rate of 93.7%. So even when the Rams do hold the Packers to a field goal attempt, don’t expect Crosby to miss.
Takeaways are lacking
If there’s one area that the Packers do struggle, it’s taking the football away. They ranked just 25th in that department, forcing only 18 total turnovers this season – seven of which were fumble recoveries. Darnell Savage led the team with four picks, while Adrian Amos and Christian Kirksey had two each. Three other players, including Alexander, had one interception each, as well. If the Rams can simply take care of the football and not give the Packers extra possessions, they’ll stay in this game. But handing the ball to Rodgers over and over again won’t get them very far.
Jaire Alexander was CB1 at Pro Football Focus
A lot of fans and analysts came around to the idea of Jalen Ramsey once again being the best cornerback in football this season. But Alexander in Green Bay has a strong case of his own. He finished as PFF’s top-graded cornerback (90.5) and allowed just two touchdowns in coverage with a completion rate of 50.7%. His passer rating allowed was only 68.3, which ranked among the five best corners in football. The Rams should tread carefully when it comes to targeting Alexander because he’s as good as they come at cornerback. https://twitter.com/BookOfEli_NFL/status/1346121120047636485
Missing best lineman
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David Bakhtiari tore his ACL in Week 17, which was a huge blow to the Packers’ offensive line. He’s been their best lineman all year, earning a pass-blocking grade of 91.6 from PFF and allowing a minuscule nine total pressures. He’ll be replaced at left tackle this weekend, which could give Justin Hollins, Samson Ebukam and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo a favorable matchup rushing the passer. Generating pressure on Rodgers is always helpful, and doing so without blitzing is even better. https://twitter.com/QBsMVP/status/1348660521751478275
Sean McVay knows their coach well
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Matt LaFleur is the head coach of the Packers, holding that title since the 2019 season. He’s led Green Bay to back-to-back 13-3 records, getting off to a tremendous start in his head coaching career. McVay helped pave the way for LaFleur to become a head coach, though. He was McVay’s offensive coordinator in 2017 before leaving to hold that same job with the Titans in 2018. McVay and LaFleur remain good friends and stay in touch often, even joking about plays they steal from each other. That familiarity will likely play a role on Saturday. “Oh yeah. No, I joke with him about running plays that we ran the previous week the next week and I’ll steal from him too,” McVay said Sunday. “So, we definitely give each other a good time. But, there’s a handful of plays that I think each of us have run over the last couple years that we’ve copied from one another.”