3 Must Win Matchups for Packers against Rams

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) breaks away for a huge run in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams during their NFL divisional playoff game Saturday, January 16, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.Apc Packvsrams 0116210872djp
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) breaks away for a huge run in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams during their NFL divisional playoff game Saturday, January 16, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.Apc Packvsrams 0116210872djp /

When it comes to the Green Bay Packers’ playoff hopes, things don’t quite look as doom-and-gloom as they did a week or two ago. However, all the help in the world doesn’t matter if the Packers don’t beat the Rams on Monday Night.

Coming off their bye week, the Packers are much healthier than what they have been. The Rams, meanwhile, continue to deal with numerous injuries — which has derailed their season — including them being without Aaron Donald once again.

At Lambeau Field, in the cold, and with a lot to play for, this is very much a game that Green Bay should win, but it begins by winning these three individual matchups.

Bennett Skowronek vs. Packers CBs

As I wrote recently, I’m not sure who is going to come out on top between the Rams’ rushing offense and the Packers’ run defense because both have been quite bad this season. So the potential is there for Los Angeles to once again lean heavily on the passing game as they did against Las Vegas, with Baker Mayfield throwing the ball 35 times.

If that’s the case, Bennett Skowronek is the name to know with both Cooper Kupp, and Allen Robinson sidelined. Skowronek is third on the team in targets this season with 55 and has caught 69% of them at 9.8 yards per catch. Last week, in particular, he was a favorite target of Mayfields’, tying a season-high eight targets while catching seven of those passes for 89 yards per PFF ($$).

Skowronek stands 6’3″ and weighs 224 pounds while taking the majority of his snaps this season from the boundary. With that bigger frame, we could see Rasul Douglas matched up on Skowronek frequently. Skowronek has more often been targeted closer to the line of scrimmage than downfield, with his average depth of target being just 8.0 yards–so, as always, tackling will be important.

The key for the Packers’ defense in this game, and something they’ve struggled with, is to not give up the big play. This is a Rams offense that has very much struggled this season, so forcing them to put together 13-plus play scoring drives should be Green Bay’s formula because doing that repeatedly is quite difficult.

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon vs. Rams defensive front

Christian Watson’s emergence over the last month has provided the Packers’ passing game with a much-needed spark. However, the run game has also been key for Green Bay when it comes to putting up points, and as Adam Stenavich said, the Packers’ offensive success begins on the ground.

In the three games against Dallas, Philadelphia, and Chicago, where the Packers averaged over 31 points, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon posted over 400 rushing yards at a clip greater than five yards. Meanwhile, against Tennessee and Detroit, where Green Bay totaled just 26 points, Jones and Dillon averaged less than 3.2 yards per rush and never eclipsed the 66-yard mark as a duo. In those two games, the Packers had to instead rely on the passing game, and they simply weren’t equipped to do so.

So this matchup with the Rams puts Green Bay in a potential predicament as Los Angeles has one of the best run defenses in the NFL, and the weak point has been their secondary. But as already alluded to, success on the ground is a must for Green Bay.

Without Aaron Donald in the middle, running the ball should be much easier, and we saw that a week ago with the Raiders totaling 165 rushing yards at over five yards per rush against the Donald-less Rams. Given the matchup, the temptation for the Packers to become pass-heavy will likely be there, but they can’t become one-dimensional. They will have to be somewhat balanced and be able to move the ball in the run game.

Christian Watson vs. Rams’ secondary

Christian Watson has been game-changing for the Green Bay Packers offense over the last month, totaling 15 receptions, 313 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns, along with another on the ground. Defenses have had to adjust how they defend Green Bay, and that has not only led to opportunities for Watson but also for other pass catchers and the run game.

As already mentioned, Watson has the opportunity for another big game potentially, as he goes up against a Rams’ secondary that has dealt with injuries and simply struggled this season, even with Jalen Ramsey still in the mix.

By DVOA, the Rams’ pass defense ranks 23rd overall and 31st against the deep ball specifically. Meanwhile, the 6.9 yards per pass attempt they are allowing ranks 22nd.

The combination of a strong run game and Watson’s big play ability have been the catalysts behind the Packers’ recent success on offense because defenses simply can’t take both elements away, which has been a major stressor.