Final Thoughts: Packers hang on to playoff hopes vs. Rams

Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

In order to make the playoffs, it, of course, begins with the Green Bay Packers winning their final four games following the bye week, which starts with the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night.

While nothing has been a given this season for the Packers, this is absolutely a game that they should win. Green Bay is the healthiest that they have been in some time coming off the bye week, not to mention they are playing at home in frigid temps. The offense has also been playing some of its best football as of late as well. The Rams, meanwhile, continue to deal with many injuries and, again, will be without Aaron Donald.

In addition to the Packers winning out, Green Bay needs Seattle to lose one more game, along with either the Giants or Commanders finishing the season 1-3. And because of tiebreakers, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to root for one more Detroit Lions loss in addition to their game against the Packers.

Since it is now finally gameday, as always, I provide my final thoughts on the Packers’ upcoming matchup. Let’s dive in.

The weak point of this Rams’ defense has been their secondary, but Green Bay will have to resist the urge to get too pass-happy. While the passing game has seemingly turned a corner, in the three games where the Packers scored 28 or more points over the last month, they’ve rushed for 400-plus yards at over five yards per carry. In their two games against Tennessee and Detroit, where they totaled 26 points, Green Bay’s running backs barely averaged over three yards per rush, along with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon not totaling more than 66 yards in either outing. To put it simply, the passing game hasn’t been good enough on its own to carry this offense. While the Los Angeles run game has been very good, last week without Aaron Donald, they allowed 165 rushing yards at 5.2 yards per carry to Las Vegas.

– Speaking of the run game, the Rams have had one of the worst rushing offenses this season. However, as we all know, the Packers have had one of the worst rushing defenses. So who wins this matchup? If the Packers do, it will put LA in third and longs and predictable passing situations, where they are banged up at receiver. If the Rams win, it will allow them to control the clock and can open up opportunities in the passing game.

– Without Cooper Kupp or Allen Robinson, a name in the Rams passing game to know is Bennett Skowronek, who is third on the team in targets, including having eight last week in Baker Mayfield’s debut. Of his 55 targets this season, Skowronek has hauled in 69% of those passes at 9.8 yards per catch, according to PFF ($$).

Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson will be back on the field together, something that has happened for only 52 snaps the entire season. The marriage of the run game and Watson’s home run ability over the last month has been the catalyst behind the Packers’ success, and the return of Doubs should only help amplify that, as he is another player for defenses to worry about. With that said, he very well could be on a snap count, with this being his first game back.

– Something that hasn’t been talked about much over the last month has been the play of the offensive line. This unit dealt with numerous injuries and movement early on but found some stability as of late, which certainly helped, and then when David Bakhtiari had to miss time, Zach Tom stepped in and played really well. And again, not having to face Aaron Donald is game-changing.

– Darnell Savage is healthy, and it will be interesting to see what his role is this week. Prior to his injury against Philadelphia, he was no longer in the starting nickel defense and was relegated to dime duties. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray mentioned that this is something that could change from week to week. It all depends on how everyone is performing.

Unfortunately, the Packers have given up quite a few big plays this season defensively, but limiting those against the Rams will be crucial. With a Los Angeles offense that has struggled overall this season, forcing them to put together long scoring drives likely isn’t sustainable for them.

– The Packers have not been able to get consistent pressure whatsoever in Rashan Gary’s absence, but they’ll be facing a Rams offensive line that ranks fourth in pressure rate allowed this season. Last week against the Raiders was the first time all season that the Rams have had the same starting five in back-to-back games.

– If the Packers can generate some pressure, it very well could lead to turnover opportunities from Mayfield. While what happened a year ago obviously has no impact of tonight’s game, the last time Mayfield came to Green Bay with Cleveland, he threw four interceptions.

Prediction: Packers 24 – Rams 17