After the success that was the NFL’s new “Super Wild Card Weekend,” the Divisional Round kicks off on Saturday when the 6th seeded Los Angeles Rams travel from the sunny confines of SoFi Stadium to the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field to meet up with the top seeded Green Bay Packers for what I am dubbing the Battle of the Aarons. It is one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend and it gets it all started. Let’s break down what each team will need in order to move on to the NFC Championship.
What do the Rams have to do to win?
The simplest way might be to win the turnover battle. This season, LA has an 8-1 record (inc. last week) when they have a turnover ratio of 0 or better. That’s really good. And like we pointed out last week, the Rams have the best defense in the NFL. However, the Packers gave the ball away the fewest times out of any team this season, with Aaron Rodgers only throwing 5 picks to go with the team’s 6 fumbles.
The Rams will be hoping to force Rodgers into making a mistake by keeping him under constant pressure. Aaron Donald will be the main focus on the Rams’ defensive line, even with some injured ribs. (This is the Battle of the Aarons after all.)
Donald is one of a few key injuries to the LA squad, along with likely starting QB Jared Goff still nursing that broken thumb. Goff will likely start due to a neck injury John Wolford sustained last week. Also banged up is star wideout Cooper Kupp.
With a banged up thumb and without his favorite target, Goff will not have an easy day at the office, especially when you factor in the way the cold will likely make that ball feel in the hand. All of this leads to needing another good performance from Cam Akers and the rest of the running backs to seal up the victory.
Keys for the Packers
On the other side of the ball, the name of the game is Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams. Easily one of the most dangerous QB-WR pairings in the entire league, this aerial connection will need to be clicking in order for Green Bay to succeed. That will be difficult with the aforementioned Rams pass rush led by Donald, going up against a rather banged up Offensive Line, especially on that critical left side. We’ll see if the bye week helped solidify that group.
Even if the Packers can keep Rodgers clean, Adams still has to beat Jalen Ramsey in order to catch the ball. This is easily the most intriguing individual matchup of the weekend, and makes this game worth watching on its own. If Ramsey can shut down Adams, a very difficult feat, where will the Packers look for offense?
The answer may be in the overlooked Aaron in this Battle, Aaron Jones. The Packer’s running back is a formidable threat that has been largely unsung this season even though he rushed for over 1,000 yards and 9 TDs. There’s another reason to hope he has a good game though:
This will likely be yet another ugly game, with a banged up LA vs. a rested GB. However, sometimes rest can become rust. I am once again picking the Rams in the upset, 24-20.
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