Divisional Round Preview – Los Angeles Rams

Looking ahead to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, the Green Bay Packers will be hosting the banged-up Los Angeles Rams, who defeated the Seattle Seahawks in a 3-6 upset, on Sunday, Jan. 17, at 3:35 PM CT.

With QB Jared Goff less than two weeks from thumb surgery, it was unproven QB John Wolford getting the call. And while he looked more than competent to start the game, Goff was quickly inserted after Wofford suffered a neck stinger due to a Jamal Adams hit to the head.

Even with being less than 100%, Goff did enough to help orchestrate the offense, while the defense recorded a pick-six and kept Russell Wilson and the offense in check.

With what was seen in the Super Wild Card Round, let’s look at what each element of the Rams brings to the table for Green Bay.

Offense

Preliminary reports provide insights into what the QB situation will look like for the Rams next week, and both Goff and Wolford should be available to go. If Goff can play, he will most likely start, seeing as how he was able to play through his thumb injury this past week.

At running back, the Rams have three options that they can run out there – rookie Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, and Darrell Henderson. Of this trio, Akers has been getting the lion’s share of touches, and he has made the most of them.

Against Seattle, Akers set a Rams franchise record for rushing yards, as his 28 carries went for 131 yards and a score, while he recorded 45 yards on two passes. Both Brown and Henderson certainly are capable of taking on larger shares in the backfield if needed, but it is Akers’ job to lose moving into the Divisional Round.

For their pass-catchers, Green Bay is forced to contend with Robert Woods (for sure) and Cooper Kupp (maybe), as well as tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. 

Kupp suffered a leg injury in the fourth quarter against Seattle, and while there has been no specific update provided, insights into his status look to be positive, meaning that in all likelihood he will play.

While both Kupp and Woods have seemingly taken turns as Goff’s favorite target, Woods has been holding down that role in the latter half of the season and looks to be continuing that into the postseason, meaning that he will deserve a ton of attention.

The Rams have a strong offensive line, anchored by two former Wisconsin Badgers – Rob Havenstein and David Edwards. The return of veteran LT Andrew Whitworth was a huge development for the Rams, especially for their running game, giving the Packers’ defensive front a big-time roadblock in their path to the backfield. 

From left to right tackle, it goes Whitworth – Edwards – Austin Blythe – Austin Corbett – Havenstein, and there is not much of a hole across the board there.

The name of the game for Green Bay is going to come down to Goff’s efficiency – having only produced 155 passing yards and a score on 9/19 passing reflects poorly on both Goff’s health and HC Sean McVay’s trust in Goff to be able to conduct and run a competent offense. If the Packers are able to throw pressure into Goff’s face while keeping the run game subdued, then they should be able to force the Rams into tough situations all night.

Defense

The two names that make offenses quite nervous are DT Aaron Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey, and both figure to fill big-time roles yet again against Green Bay.

For Donald, he suffered a rib injury against the Seahawks in the third quarter and did not return to the game (although he did return to the sideline), and there has been no update on his health as well moving forward. Alongside Morgan Fox and Sebastian Joseph-Day, the best defensive player in the entire NFL certainly is going to give center Corey Linsley and both guards a ton to handle Sunday.

The LBs for the Rams, OLBs Samson Ebukam and Leonard Floyd as well as ILBs Troy Reeder and Kenny Young, fly across the field at all times while subsequently crashing the backfield. Green Bay is familiar with Floyd dating back to his days with the Bears, and they are very well aware of his pass-rushing acumen.

The secondary for LA is a stout unit, one that is led by Ramsey but certainly has seen others step up. Darious Williams jumped a WR screen intended for D.K. Metcalf and pick-6’d Wilson last week, and he has been playing very well all season, giving the Rams three competent corners (Ramsey, Troy Hill, Williams) to help subdue the GB passing attack.

Jordan Fuller and John Johnson III are this team’s safeties, and both fill their roles very well on this defense, helping provide over-the-top coverage while also floating around the field, at times playing up in the box.

Aaron Rodgers is going to need to try and work other pass catchers into the game, as Ramsey will most likely be matched up with Davante Admas most of the night. Ramsey had a ton of success locking Metcalf up over this season, and he will look to do the same against the line of scrimmage release king.

As much as people may not want to hear it, Marquez Valdes-Scantling again holds a huge role in this upcoming game, as if he can develop a rapport with Rodgers early on and command more attention than expected, then Adams will hopefully be able to work Ramsey into some tough situations that see him shaking loose with no safety coverage over the top.

On the ground, it is going to be slim pickings, as the Rams have allowed the third-fewest rushing yards (1,460), third-lowest YPC average (3.8), fifth-fewest rushing TDs (12), and the fewest 20+ and 40+ yard runs on the year (two and zero, respectively). Even if David Bakhtiari was not lost for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, establishing the run early on was going to be tough.

Offensive balance (consistent play-action usage and not abandoning the run), combined with consistent defensive pressure (five-man boxes to force Goff into bad decisions) will be key for Green Bay if they want to move on to the NFC Championship game.

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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23

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