So far the Packers have done everything that they planned to do as the 2015 season got underway. They got off to a fast start. They’ve stepped up their play on defense. And they’ve exorcised their demons of the past couple of seasons by beating two NFC West rivals.
However, now it’s time for the toughest matchup against that division all season. The St. Louis Rams come into Green Bay in a battle of pass rush juggernauts. The Ram have been a perplexing team this season, looking great in victories against Seattle and Arizona while looking pedestrian in losses to Washington and Pittsburgh. So the question is whether St. Louis is a legitimate contender or whether they play to the level of their competition. So far their season points toward the latter.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a ton of talent on this team. Much has been said already about the defensive line, probably the best in football, but don’t sleep on the offense. Nick Foles looks like a long-term solution for the Rams and Todd Gurley broke out in a big way last week. So with all of that to think about let’s get to this weeks 3…2…1…
For those who are new to this format, a quick refresher is needed. Each Saturday, and some Tuesdays pending Game Day for each week, this articles will count down 3 key matchups of the game, 2 bold prediction, and 1 key stat for the Packers to win. Now let’s dig in.
3 KEY MATCHUPS
- James Campen vs. Mike Waufle
- This one sounds like a cheat, but with two great coaching staffs this battle may decide who wins and who gets out in one piece. Campen has solidified himself as a good offensive line coach with what he’s done with guys like TJ Lang, Corey Linsley, and David Bakhtiari but he will have his hands full with the plans being made by Waufle. The Rams defensive line coach will be thinking up of all the ways to get through this line as much as possible. It will be up to Campen to make sure that the interior line has all their call right to stop the duo of Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers in the middle.
- James Jones vs Janoris Jenkins
- Janoris Jenkins is a big, physical corner with two interceptions already on the season. He isn’t the quickest though, so expect him to matchup with James Jones on the boundary. Jones has been a godsend to this team so far this season and his veteran savvy should help open up the field by keeping Jenkins occupied more than most receivers can. Throw in the fact that Jenkins loves to take risks and this could be the week that we see a completed “shot play.”
- Letroy Guion/Datone Jones vs. Rob Havenstein
- The Rams under Jeff Fisher are likely to lean heavily on the run game, especially with Gurley’s emergence. And they have the perfect right tackle to do it. The 6’8” 321 pound right tackle from Wisconsin is very well known to fans from within the state. He is a mauler and was drafted to push the line down the field. Safe to say he has been effective so far. Guion is in Green Bay to stop the run, while Datone Jones has the quickness and athleticism to cause problems for Havenstein and he is finally delivering on his promise even if the stat sheet doesn’t quite show it yet.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Louis gets less than 4 sacks on Aaron Rodgers
- The Rams are currently tied with the Packers in sacks with 17 so far on the season, buoyed by Aaron Donald. While their line is very good, they haven’t faced a line the caliber of Green Bay yet this season. Seattle is a dumpster fire in the trenches and Washington, Pittsburgh, and Arizona are all still works in progress. Green Bay has a Top 5 line and with the increasing possibility of Bryan Bulaga returning, the Rams won’t get as much pressure as they have this season to date. I look for two or three sacks from the team, at least one of which will be a coverage sack.
- Nate Palmer will get his first career interception.
- With the Rams receivers not as prevalent in the offense as they were back in the “Greatest Show on Turf” days, they love to use their tight ends. Jeff Fisher is known for it going back to Tennessee/Houston. And the Rams have two very good receiving threats at that position in Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks. Badger fans remember Kendricks and Seattle fans learned his name in Week 1. Both have great seam stretching talent and are favorite targets for Nick Foles. So far this season Nate Palmer has been up to the task of stopping the tight ends. He has slowed down Travis Kelce and shut down Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis. I look for him to continue that trend and up the ante by snagging an interception on an underthrow sometime in the first half.
1 KEY STAT THAT WILL HELP LEAD TO VICTORY
- Time per pass play.
- As most of you can see by now, the key storyline will be centered on the pass protection for both teams. But is not just the protection schemes. How the quarterback deals with pressure will go a long way toward deciding this game, and that advantage slides heavily in favor of Green Bay. No quarterback is better than Aaron Rodgers than eluding pressure and buying time for his receivers. On the opposite side, Nick Foles is more or less a pure pocket passer in the mold of Joe Flacco. A tall, statuesque player with some solid athletic ability, he still at times struggles to get out of the pocket. If Rodgers can buy one more second per play compared to Foles, the Packers will win this game.
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.