Prior to the Rams playing the Jets in Week 15, I scoured the internet looking for just one person who picked New York to win. As you’d expect, that person was hard to find. In fact, I didn’t even become aware of one until a TST reader posted one in the comments section after the game.
You know, after that game that the Jets won.
Well, a few weeks later, the Rams find themselves in the Jets’ recent position of being that unheralded underdog pick that almost nobody is picking to win. And like the Jets and many other NFL teams in history who won when nobody expected them to, the LA Rams are hoping to defy the preconceived, made-up odds against them this Saturday against the Packers.
Not everybody’s picks are in for the divisional round games yet, but what is immediately clear is that very few are willing to step outside the “safe” box when it comes to the Rams and Browns. It could be fear, it could be groupthink, it could be an over-reliance on “common sense,” but finding a writer or talking head who isn’t afraid to pick against Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes this week is nearly impossible.
On Thursday, I compiled these 36 picks for Rams-Seahawks and 34 of them went with Green Bay. Who didn’t?
All nine talking heads at ESPN picked the Packers.
Seven out of seven picked the Packers at USA Today.
Three unnamed “experts” who spoke to The Athletic picked the Packers to win.
Both writers at ProFootballTalk picked the Packers to win by 10.
NFL.com picked the Packers.
Benjamin Hoffman of The New York Times picked the Packers.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports picked the Packers.
The Sporting News picked the Packers.
FiveThirtyEight says that Green Bay is 78% likely to win.
Nine out of 10 SB Nation experts chose the Packers to win, with the lone exception being Kyle Posey, managing editor of Niners Nation. I asked Kyle what made him go with the Rams this weekend:
“In the NFL, “good offense beats good defense,”
Calling the Packers offense “good” would be a slight to what they’ve accomplished this season. Green Bay was first in EPA/play, success rate, and dropback EPA. Aaron Rodgers and Devante Adams are the best duo in the NFL, while Aaron Jones was no slouch as he helped the Packers to a top-five rushing attack this season.
On the flip side, the Rams defense was the best in the league, too. Los Angeles finished No. 1 in defensive EPA/play, success rate, and dropback EPA. The Rams were second in rushing EPA on defense. Brandon Staley deserves all of the credit in the world for having the Rams prepared each week. Having the best player in the NFL, Aaron Donald, doesn’t hurt. Neither does having the best secondary player in the NFL or a top-10 cornerback.
I think people forget what Rodgers has done or how he’s looked against competent defenses this season. Earlier this year, Tampa Bay embarrassed the Packers. Even in Week 17 against the Bears, and yes, I know he threw four touchdowns, Rodgers didn’t exactly light Chicago up. Rodgers and the Packers will face the best of all worlds in the Rams defense that can win with both a pass rush and in coverage.
What nobody is talking about here is Sean McVay versus Mike Pettine. I don’t care who is under center for the Rams. McVay has a significant advantage. There is no familiarity that the Seahawks had last week. Pettine’s style of defense is the same style that McVay/Shanahan’s offenses feast on. Los Angeles should be able to run the ball at will and hit Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in the play-action passing game.
The Rams can’t afford to have the typical “Goff blunder,” but I think the matchups in this game favor Los Angeles and they beat a Packers team that’s beaten up on their fair share of bad opponents this year.”
I agree with Kyle.