The 2018 Green Bay Packers reboot has been a bit of rollercoaster ride through six games. At 3-2-1, the Packers success is still largely defined by their All-Galaxy signal caller Aaron Rodgers; but led by their new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the Packers’ defense has also been vastly improved.
After successful stints with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, Pettine currently has the Packers defense ranked 8th in yardage allowed and 15th in points allowed. Their improvement has been most pronounced when defending the pass, where the Packers have recently invested some high-end draft stock. This week Jared Goff will have to navigate around safety Clinton Dix, who has bounced back from a lackluster 2017 season; as well as emerging corner Kevin King.
In the trenches, the Packers have had issues stopping ball carriers, despite having a fairly tough three up front in nose tackle Kenny Clark, and defensive ends Dean Lowry, and Mike Daniels. They are without former Pro Bowler Muhammad Wilkerson, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury back a in Week 3 loss to the Washington Redskins. Inside linebacker Blake Martinez has provided the Packers’ defense with quality play against both the run and pass this season. The Packers biggest issue has been a lack pressure from their edge rushers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. If the Rams can keep Jared Goff clean, and Todd Gurley is able to enjoy the success that other teams have had against the Packers on the ground, then the Rams could end up putting up mounds of points again.
Despite having one of the best, and most clutch quarterbacks of all time, the Packers’ offense is currently ranked only 16th in scoring, despite being 4th in yardage. Rodgers has had a statistically solid season with 12 touchdowns, 1 interception, and nearly 2,000 yards so far. However, much of those stats have come with Rodgers trying to scrape back when the Packers have fallen behind by massive deficits. Rodgers heroics have added to his legend, but the comeback formula is not head coach Mike McCarthy’s ideal formula for sustainable success. At times, Rodgers has been critical of the offense as a whole and even criticized the play calling following the Packers’ Week 5 loss to the Detroit Lions.
The Packers will hope their very-capable offensive line can buy Rodgers enough time to find his favorite targets, wide receiver Davante Adams, and tight end Jimmy Graham. Given the issues that the Rams have had against tight ends like the Jared Cook, and George Kittle, Graham will have Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips full attention this week. Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari could be a tough nut to crack for Rams edge Samson Ebukam, but containment could be critical for the Rams, as their tsunami of interior pressure will likely flush Rodgers from the pocket frequently. If the Rams allow him to drift around for several seconds, Rodgers will usually find a target, or take the consolation prize and scramble for a gain.
The Packers ground game hasn’t been especially noteworthy so far. They rely on a pair of second-year running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones to carry the bulk of the load, as well as veteran Ty Montgomery who is their best pass-catching back.
This game could go a variety of ways, but the Rams would be best served to not let Rodgers and the Packers hang around within striking distance. If the Rams offense can control the clock and their defense can eliminate the Packers running backs early, then the Rams could end up dictating the pace and flow of this game.