The Los Angeles Rams are, on paper, the worst team the Packers have yet to play this season, but could this prove to be a trap game for Green Bay?
Miraculously, the Packers’ playoffs hopes are still alive, though they’ll need some help to get there. Green Bay is vying for a Wild Card playoff spot with several teams ahead of them in seeding, most notably the Seahawks, Lions, Commanders and Giants.
If the Packers win all their final four games, they have a realistic shot at the postseason. The New York Times NFL playoff simulator has the Packers at a 51% chance at the playoffs if they win their last four games. However, winning out will be the toughest part of Green Bay’s unlikely playoff push.
Next up are the Rams. The Rams are experiencing an unprecedented Super Bowl hangover. They’re 4-9 this year after going 12-5 last year and defeating the Bengals in the Super Bowl.
Injuries are a key factor in why this season has spiraled out of control for LA. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has dealt with injuries all year and now is finally being held out for the rest of the season. All-Pro receiver Cooper Kupp, who led the NFL in receiving yards, touchdowns and receptions last year, suffered a season-ending injury in mid-November.
LA will be missing their best defensive player as well. Aaron Donald is one of the most decorated defensive players of all time. He’s made eight straight Pro-Bowls and seven straight All-Pro teams with 103 career sacks in his eight-year career. Donald, Kupp and Stafford being out is an incredible advantage for the Packers.
Despite the Rams looking like a dumpster fire at several points this season, last week provided an interesting storyline to watch heading into their matchup against the Packers. The Rams had lost six straight games prior to last week’s unbelievable comeback win over the Raiders led by 2018 first-overall pick Baker Mayfield, who was signed two days before the game after being cut by the Panthers.
The severity of Matthew Stafford’s injuries could jeopardize his career. Mayfield’s performance last week, especially considering the circumstances he was dealing with, has people talking about him as LA’s potential quarterback of the future (and by future, that really just means next season.)
The Rams were down 16-3 with only about four minutes left again the Raiders before storming back with two late touchdown scores, including a Mayfield 23-yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson with 10 seconds left, leading LA to a stunning 17-16 win.
Mayfield’s career has been defined by impressive highs and disastrous lows. Though the Rams are out of playoff contention, Mayfield will be playing his heart out in hopes of earning back a starting job next year, whether it be on the Rams or somewhere else.
The Packers barely beat a Mayfield-led Browns team last season, 24-22. Mayfield was horrendous, throwing 4 INTs, posting a completion percentage below 60% and taking 5 sacks. It’s a one-game sample size, but Mayfield will be facing the same Packers defensive scheme and a very similar roster with a worse supporting cast around him.
The Rams have one key strength-on-strength matchup against the Packers. The strength of Green Bay’s offense is their running game, and the Rams have a stout run defense, though a more vulnerable one with the absence of Donald.
The Rams’ defense ranks 4th in the NFL in opposing team’s yards per carry and rushing yards per game. They’re 5th in rush defense DVOA per Football Outsiders and 6th even when not adjusted for opponent. The Rams are 2nd in the league in opposing redzone scoring percentage – they’re great at stopping teams inside their own 20-yard line. LA will be up against the 7th ranked Packers rush attack by DVOA. Green Bay also is 7th in the league in yards per carry.
If the Packers lose the battle of strengths in the run game, they might have to lean heavier on the pass game than they’d like. Fortunately, the Rams are a below-average pass defense unit. They rank 23rd in defensive pass DVOA, give up the 4th worst completion percentage and are in the bottom half of the league in opposing yards per pass, opposing pass yards per game and sack percentage.
This Packers team could drop any random game to an inferior opponent, but besides their formidable run defense, the Rams don’t do much exceptionally well. They don’t have strengths that could expose a Packers’ weakness. Anything can happen in the NFL, but even a sloppy performance from this inconsistent Green Bay team should be enough to take care of the reeling Rams.——————
Liam O’Donnell is a devoted Packers fan and an aspiring sportswriter from Milwaukee. He writes for PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @liamodonnell___.
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