The divisional spherical of the playoffs is upon us. In some of the intriguing matchups of the weekend from a pure star-power standpoint, the top-seeded Inexperienced Bay Packers welcome the No. 6 seed Los Angeles Rams to Lambeau Discipline to kick off Saturday’s motion. Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and extra will all be on the identical subject. This must be enjoyable.
Let’s break down the matchup.
How one can watch
When the Rams have the ball
The phrases of engagement on this facet of the ball are pretty clear: The Rams wish to run, and the Packers largely wrestle to cease the run. LA completed the season ranked fourth in rush offense DVOA, per Soccer Outsiders, in addition to seventh in Adjusted Line Yards. Inexperienced Bay really checked in a reasonably strong 18th in rush protection DVOA, however a extra regarding twenty third in Adjusted Line Yards, indicating that they most of the time misplaced the battle within the trenches.
So, the Packers are more likely to be handled to a heavy dose of Cam Akers, who has absolutely taken over because the Rams’ lead again over the previous a number of weeks. After enjoying scarcely by way of the primary 12 weeks of the season — his 24 snaps and 33 p.c snap share in Week 1 every represented high-water marks till Week 13, and he performed simply 111 snaps throughout that span — Akers has largely boxed Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson (now injured) out of the backfield pecking order. He is performed a minimum of 61 p.c of the snaps in every of the final 5 video games, dashing 114 occasions for 471 yards and two touchdowns.
In Inexperienced Bay’s three losses this season, the Packers surrendered 158, 173, and 140 dashing yards, to opponents who averaged 4.5, 5.1, and three.8 yards per try. The Colts staged a second-half comeback by operating their method into subject objectives and tightening up on protection. Tampa’s early lead got here on a pick-six and one other interception returned to the 2-yard line, so it was solely Minnesota that actually got here out and simply ran the ball proper down Inexperienced Bay’s throat from the soar. However even the Vikings did not take the lead for good till the third quarter, and did not put issues away till Dalvin Prepare dinner took a display cross 50 yards to the home.
In fact, the Packers know the Rams wish to run the ball. And the Rams know the Packers know they wish to run the ball. Which is why it is a good factor their complete passing sport is about marrying play motion to their favourite run ideas. With Jared Goff’s thumb damage, it might be a good suggestion to get him fast strikes on screens to the perimeter, in addition to half-field reads on bootlegs, the place he can simply dump it off to one among his targets and allow them to make a play with the ball of their arms.
Issues get tougher for the LA passing sport with Cooper Kupp’s knee damage, placing extra strain on Robert Woods (who appears more likely to see a complete lot of Jaire Alexander, who could be getting much more consideration this week if he weren’t enjoying towards Jalen Ramsey’s group), Josh Reynolds, and Van Jefferson. LA’s greatest passing sport matchups are most likely their tight ends (Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett) towards the Packers’ linebackers and safeties, and it would not be shocking to see quite a lot of 12 personnel (one again, two tight ends) appears to be like from the Rams, hoping to get heavier appears to be like from the Inexperienced Bay protection after which hit the tight ends on crossers out of play motion.
When the Packers have the ball
The marquee matchup right here, clearly, is Davante Adams vs. Jalen Ramsey. Adams solidified himself as one thing just like the consensus greatest vast receiver in soccer this season, racking up 115 catches for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns in simply 14 video games. (And it was actually 13.5 video games, as he exited midway by way of the Packers’ Week 2 contest.) He and Aaron Rodgers share a mind-meld that’s unmatched by some other quarterback-receiver mixture within the league for the time being, they usually problem defenses to cowl each inch of the sector.
Fortunate for the Rams, they’ve a cornerback who’s as much as the problem. Ramsey shadowed a person receiver in 10 of the 17 video games the group has performed to date this season, per NFL.com monitoring, and he has been … unbelievable in these video games, as you’ll be able to see within the desk beneath.
(Notice: The reception, yardage, and landing totals for these video games embrace ONLY targets the place the receiver was coated by Ramsey, so they could not account for one hundred pc of the participant’s manufacturing in that given sport.)
Essentially the most fascinating factor in regards to the Adams-Ramsey battle is that it is extraordinarily unlikely to be gained on the catch level. As an alternative, it is all in regards to the launch. Adams was given much less cushion on the line of scrimmage than virtually any receiver within the league this season, per NFL.com’s Subsequent Gen Stats. Defenders had been a median of 5.0 yards off the ball on the snap when defending Adams, the sixth-tightest cushion among the many 132 receivers and tight ends that had been focused a minimum of 43 occasions. And but Adams created a median of three.3 yards of separation per goal, based on the identical monitoring, which means he did higher than virtually anybody shaking his defender. (Adams was one among solely eight gamers who noticed the differential between their cushion and separation shut by 2 yards or much less.)
So, if there’s anybody who can shake Ramsey’s in-your-jersey protection, it is most likely Adams. And even when he cannot, he and Rodgers have confirmed themselves greater than able to navigating tight home windows, significantly to the perimeters of the formation, the place they’re the most dominant duo within the league. Lining Adams up out vast is perhaps a greater technique than shifting him into the slot; Ramsey is more likely to observe him inside anyway, and the Rams like once they can line him up nearer to the formation so he can stick his nostril in and make performs. Conserving Adams on the perimeter eliminates that facet of Ramsey’s sport.
The second most attention-grabbing battle right here is Packers head coach and play-caller Matt LaFleur towards Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. The Rams play extra two-high security appears to be like pre-snap than any group within the league, they usually virtually all the time use a lightweight field. Why? As a result of Staley believes the first object of his protection must be to remove deep passes, and he is simply nice inviting opponents to run the ball. The Rams completed the season ranked third within the NFL in dashing protection DVOA regardless of lining up with six or fewer gamers within the field on 67.6 p.c of their snaps — a fee far greater than the 45.7 p.c league common, per Professional Soccer Focus and Tru Media.
Will LaFleur take Staley up on his dare and attempt to run the ball extra usually than is advantageous? The Packers of final yr certainly would have performed so. (It is price noting that each Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams ran right into a heavy field that includes eight-plus defenders solely 19 p.c of their carries this season, per Subsequent Gen Stats.) This season’s group was a bit extra pass-oriented than it was a yr in the past, although, due to Rodgers rising extra snug within the offense. The Packers might want to discover methods to contain the backs and tight finish Robert Tonyan within the passing sport as effectively, to attempt to reap the benefits of LA’s linebackers in protection.
In fact, not a lot of this issues if they cannot take care of Aaron Donald. The celebrity defensive lineman is coping with a painful rib damage sustained in final week’s victory over Seattle, however he says he will play. And if he performs, he might be hassle to take care of. That is simply what he does. Inexperienced Bay has an excellent offensive line, however its most reliable member (David Bakhtiari) was misplaced for the season to a torn ACL final month. The inside of the O-line stays intact, although, which is arguably extra essential towards a participant like Donald, who strains up inside. In fact, Donald isn’t the one terror to take care of. Michael Brockers is a drive in his personal proper, Morgan Fox had his greatest season but, and Leonard Floyd and Samson Ebukam can fly across the edge. To not point out Sebastian Joseph-Day, who’s a dominant participant within the run sport.
Prediction: Packers 24, Rams 20