Packers vs Rams: Gameday Preview - 2021 Week 12

The Packers are reeling after a tough loss where they missed opportunities. The Rams have their own problems after dropping back to back games. The Rams are coming out of their bye looking fresh, while the Packers injury list just keeps growing. The odds are stacked against Packers, who find themselves as underdogs at home.

The last time these teams met, the Packers knocked the Rams out of the playoffs. Jalen Ramsey ran his mouth, Davante Adams scored on him, and the Packers rolled 32-18.

The Rams will almost certainly have revenge on their mind, especially Jalen Ramsey (who was embarrassed on national television) and Aaron Donald (who was injured and visibly frustrated).

Both of these team are coming off disappointing losses (the Packers on a last second field goal and the Rams on a 31-10 trouncing att the hands of San Francisco), but while the Packers have scrambling to deal with another batch of injuries, the Rams are fresh off a bye week where they've been plotting their revenge.

 

WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL

The Rams recent downturn can be traced directly to Matt Stafford. He threw only 4 interceptions in the first 8 games, but has thrown 4 more in the last 2. While starting 7-1, he had a quarterback rating well over 100. In the last two games, his ratings are 71 and 67. It's like he turned into a Detroit Lion overnight in leading a top contender on a two game losing streak.

Of course, the 49ers and Titans have a way of making quarterbacks look bad. They are great defenses and, while the Packers defense has been much improved, injuries have taken their toll. Still, while missing a lot of guys, they had a chance to pick off Kirk Cousins no fewer than 6 times and came up empty handed. Matt Stafford will almost certainly give them chances to pick off the ball and they will need to take advantage of them if they want to have a chance.

The Packers are undefeated when they get at least one takeaway on defense and winless when they don't get a takeaway. It's uncanny.

The Rams offense was dealt a major blow shortly after they acquired OBJ, as wide receiver Robert Woods tore his ACL. OBJ seems like a logical replacement that could keep their offense moving. However, in his one game with the Rams, he had a total of 2 catches for 18 yards . Without knowing the offense, Los Angeles has had to slow down their pace and huddle more often so he can get the full call. The bye week was almost certainly focused on integrating him into the offense and getting him familiar with the calls.

The Packers may have an advantage this week if they get to face a trimmed down passing attack from the Rams, who may have simplified their playbook to get OBJ comfortable.

This would allow the Packers to gameplan a little tighter, which might be critical since Kevin king is doubtful. Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas as a nice pair to have when Jaire and King as still out, but the Rams have Van Jefferson as their 3rd wide receiver and he might cause problems for the Packers when they get down to their 5th cornerback. Look for the Rams to throw early, showing off their new plays for OBJ and attacking the Packers injury-riddled secondary while checking to see if their injury-riddled pass rush can apply any pressure.

When running the ball, the Rams depend heavily on 5'8 Darrell Henderson (who took the role when starter Cam Akers tore his achilles in training camp), who has been averaging a consistently solid 4.7 yards per carry, despite not breaking many long runs. The Packers should be able to contain him with their base defense as long as Kenny Clark and De'Vondre Campbell are on their game.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

The offensive line outlook is bleak this week.

David Bakhtiari is an All Pro. Elgton Jenkins was playing at an All Pro level. Josh Myers was looking like an All Rookie Team candidate.

They will all miss the game.

Yosh Nijman, Lucas Patrick, and Royce Newman just don't give me the same confidence.

Sure, the Packers neutralized Aaron Donald in playoffs last year, but that was when they had Elgton Jenkins and Corey Linsely and Donald was injured.

If the Packers don't plan effectively, Donald can take this game over single-handedly. Don't sleep on the other end, A'Shawn Robinson, either. Aside from being one of the baddest looking dudes in the league, he is a premier run stopper that can get wreck any gameplan that tries to be cute by entirely avoiding Aaron Donald. It's going to be tough to run on the Rams, but it's the only way to keep them honest. The Rams run defense, strong enough to hold the Buccaneers and Texans to 35 and 44 yards on the ground, also had a couple stinkers, allowing the Cardinals and 49ers to get 216 and 156. It's tough to run on them, but not impossible. 

The Rams also have a pair of talented pass rushers in Von Miller and Leonard Floyd. Floyd is right at the end of his prime and Miller is a little past his, but they are very productive duo that makes this Los Angeles front a chore to deal with.

Jalen Ramsey is one of the top corners in the league, but Davante Adams can get the better of him if given time to run his routes. With a banged up line, the Packers quarterback may have to make his own time. 

Aaron Rodgers will probably be the key to this game (no surprise). He's been forcing the ball downfield (usually unfruitfully) when he has guys open underneath and he's been taking the pass option on most calls rather than establishing the run. With a toe injury impacting his base, a lack of practice throwing off his timing, and a an overly-aggressive mindset to go deep and put his backup lineman in tough situations, there's a lot stacked against him.

AJ Dillon is the kind of back that can find success against the Rams. Los Angeles is too good to let a backup offensive line open up big holes. If the Packers want tot get yards on the ground, a lot of it will depend on the individual effort of the runner. A physical beast like Dillon, running on grass with temperatures in the 20s, would be their best best. 

If Rodgers can bring himself to take what the defense gives him, run the ball often and hit the underneath routes for short gains to keep moving the chains, he can frustrate and wear down a very talented Rams defense.

If they get away from those fundamental principles, like they did last week, they could find themselves in a similar situation as they did last week.

Run the ball, hit the short routes, keep it simple.

 

OTHER NOTES

Joe Barry spent the previous 4 years as the Assistant Head Coach of the Rams - Matt LaFleur is surely pumping him for insight and I expect this to be a LaFleur gameplanning masterpiece.

Equinimeous St. Brown looked like a new man the last couple of weeks, displaying some hustle we haven't seen before.

Matt Stafford has a tendency to play terrible when he's behind and has thrown pick 6's the last two weeks when trying to come back from a deficit - playing in the cold won't make him any more effective, either.

I'm gonna gloss over the entire special teams debacle and just focus on the snapping: they went from mediocre to terrible when they made the switch from Hunter Bradley to Steven Wirtel. I don't see Wirtel just working out the kinks, I think they need to replace him.

Randall Cobb has been getting open underneath... but not getting the ball... which seems odd given what happened this offseason.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Everything in my mind tells me that the Packers lose this game. They are beat up, injured and outmatched. The loss of Elgton Jenkins just feels like too much to overcome against a champion-caliber team with an elite defensive front.

But football doesn't always follow logic. It's a game of emotion and physical will.

Matt LaFleur has never lost two games in a row and I think a big part of that is because he is a motivator and a guy who holds himself accountable. He also knows how to get his team ready for late season runs (posting an 11-0 record after Thanksgiving).

And this team, at least the guys who are still healthy enough to play, are galvanized around their "next man up" mantra. They truly seem like a group of men that trust and depend on each other.

Somehow, I think they rally around each other, feed on the home crowd, and pull this one, running into a much-needed bye on a high note.

Packers 24, Rams 22

 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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2 points

Comments (6)

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Packerlifer's picture

November 28, 2021 at 06:50 am

This one reminds me of the 2018 game out on the Coast when the Packers were also dealing with injury issues going against the 8-0 Rams, who were rolling impressively to a Super Bowl. The Pack stood up and gave them a whale of a game and could have won it if not for Ty Montgomery's colossal blunder on the kick return with 2 minutes remaining. The Packers ended up losing 29-27.

I don't have any particular feel or prediction for this one. The injuries are the big concern but playing at home is the Pack's best chance. A lot depends on whether Aaron Jones can play and what he can do with his knee.

I won't be surprised by either outcome. This is one we can just sit back, relax and enjoy. Great if the Packers win but no disaster if they don't; as long as the injury situation isn't made worse.

The late bye this year is coming at just the right time for our team. Get through this one, get some rest and healing and it's a 5 game season after that which will tell the tale.

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MarkinMadison's picture

November 28, 2021 at 09:24 am

I'd say the bye is coming a couple of weeks too late Packerlifer. This team is fatigued, and fatigue increases the chances of injury.

BruceIrons' breakdown seems pretty spot on to me. The defensive secondary is going to have to be opportunistic to win this game. I suspect they spent a lot of time in the DB room last week looking at film of missed opportunities. I expect them to be hungry. On the other side of the ball, I'm sure that Matt Stafford has had this game circled on his calendar since he was traded. This is his measuring stick of redemption. His chance to prove that he could have beat the Packers if he had been on a better team for all of those years.

The offense surprised us last week by putting up 31 points. I don't see a repeat this week against this DL. If they do, it will be because EQ and MVS have banner days. I agree about Cobb being open and am as confused as anyone as to why he is getting over-looked. OK, not really. We all know why, but the Packers can't win this game throwing long all day. Rodgers will be the next guy on IR if he tries.

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Packerlifer's picture

November 28, 2021 at 01:13 pm

With the injury situation being what it is I'm just glad the bye is still in front rather than behind us this season.

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HawkPacker's picture

November 28, 2021 at 11:19 am

I basically like your breakdown except I do not agree with your take on the long snapper.

'I'm gonna gloss over the entire special teams debacle and just focus on the snapping: they went from mediocre to terrible when they made the switch from Hunter Bradley to Steven Wirtel. I don't see Wirtel just working out the kinks, I think they need to replace him.'
I looked at both Bradley in his last game and saw him hike the ball to the holder both high and to the outside which is certainly not good. I looked at Wirtel in his first game and he hiked it exactly where he should have hiked the ball. He was spot on. As I have mentioned on CHTV this past week or so, the problem is, imho, first off the holder. The holder did not have the seams facing the goal posts as they should. I also believe that because of this, Mason Crosby, has lost a bit of confidence wondering if and when he kicks the ball will it be facing the goal posts or not. Kicking field goals isn't just physical but mental as well. I think we need to just be a bit patient with Crosby and he will be just fine. Also, the coaches/FO must be very confident in Wirtel or why would they make the change.

If I am wrong, please point out the kinks that he supposedly needs to work out.

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MarkinMadison's picture

November 28, 2021 at 11:51 am

I agree. Bradley was kind of wild. Dude had one job to do and he wasn't doing it well.

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Packerlifer's picture

November 28, 2021 at 01:15 pm

J. K. Scott did seem to have better rapport with Crosby as holder.

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