Packers vs. Rams: 3 Key Matchups

Where and how the game at the L.A. Coliseum will be won

NFL teams try to claim they want to be balanced on offense but very few actually pull it off. The Rams, however, are about as balanced as a team can be.

On their road to a 7-0 start Los Angeles has run the ball 219 times and attempted 219 passes. Yes, Jared Goff has been sacked 12 times so the actual number of play calls does slightly favor the aerial attack but in today’s pass-happy game having as many runs as passes is borderline blasphemy.

And yet it works so, so, so well.

I know a lot goes into that. L.A. has not had to play from behind very much so they’ve had the luxury of not abandoning the run game. But they haven’t trailed a lot because they mix run and pass so effectively. It’s one of those chicken and egg arguments but one thing is certain:

Aaron Rodgers would take it in a heartbeat.

The Packers quarterback hasn’t had a reliable running attack behind him since … well maybe ever. Once again this year Green Bay has thrown it 262 times (with 21 sacks) with just 132 rushes. Perhaps that has something to do with the Packers being 4th in the NFL in total yards but 24th in scoring. The threat of the run just isn’t there and it hurts their Red Zone offense.

With all that in mind Rodgers can still light it up on any given day (or as the Bears saw this season in any given half). So let’s look at three key matchups for Sunday’s showdown between the Rams and Packers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum:

Rams DT Ndamukong Suh vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Oh do these two have a fun history. When Suh was with the Lions he and Rodgers got up close and personal on a few occasions. In 2014 Suh knocked Rodgers down then intentionally stepped on the QB’s leg, a move that Suh claimed happened because it was so cold at Lambeau Field that his feet were numb and he couldn’t tell the difference between a human leg and the turf. Suh’s moment of numbness cost him a $70,000 fine and prompted Rodgers to call him both the most terrifying and dirtiest player in the National Football League. Seeing these two across the line of scrimmage from one another again will be fun, especially since that stomp game was the last time they squared off and Suh has sacked Rodgers 4.5 times in 10 career meetings.

Packers Pass Rush vs. Rams Offensive Line

Green Bay is averaging 3.0 sacks a game, giving them one of the top-10 pass rushes in the NFL. With superstars at most other positions L.A.’s offensive line is arguably the most underappreciated unit in football. If they can keep Clay Matthews and company off of Jared Goff long enough for him to get the ball downfield to his dynamic playmaking wide receivers the Rams will easily get over 30 points for the 6th time in eight games.

Rams LB Cory Littleton vs. Packers TE Jimmy Graham

Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips (side bar: if the Pro Football Hall of Fame ever pulls its head out of its rear end and inducts coordinators Wade is a 1st-ballot shoe-in for Canton) trusts Littleton implicitly in pass coverage. The Mount Miguel High School alum has become arguably the most versatile member of a talent-laden Rams defense. He is going to get a big test in Graham, the 6’7” tight end who is getting used to his new offense. He caught five passes for 104 yards in Green Bay’s last game, a 33-30 Monday Night win over the 49ers. It was his first 100-yard game since November of 2016. Rodgers will certainly be looking to get his massive pass catcher into the game and Littleton will have plenty of chances to keep that from happening.

Derek’s Prediction

The Rams are entering a gauntlet where they play the following four quarterbacks in succession:

Aaron Rodgers
Drew Brees
Russell Wilson
Patrick Mahomes

Then they get their bye week. You’d have to figure one of those is going to be a loss. But with Green Bay’s lack of a rushing game I don’t think it comes today.

Final score: Rams 38, Packers 34

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