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Rams vs Packers: Bold Predictions for an NFC playoff preview

Sean McVay makes some offensive adjustments, Aaron Donald takes down Aaron Rodgers, and other bold predictions for Week 12

Syndication: The Post-Crescent Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Sunday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers may be an early showing of this year’s playoffs. Coming off of a bye week, the Rams are 1-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook and will be looking to end their two-game losing streak while the Green Bay Packers will be hoping to recover from a divisional loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The last time these two teams saw each other was on Jan. 16 of this year during the divisional round of the 2020 playoffs. In that game, Aaron Rodgers burned the Rams’ number one-ranked defense and was not sacked a single time, while LA’s offense struggled to get the ball moving with Jared Goff playing through a thumb injury, leading to a 18-32 defeat.

Though it was just 10 months ago, both teams look very different. With new faces on both side of the ball, anything can happen on Sunday. These are my predictions for a huge NFC matchup on Sunday.

Sean McVay’s offense makes some mid-season adjustments

After the bye week, head coach Sean McVay has had some time to reflect on his recent offensive struggles. LA’s once high-powered passing attack has looked outmatched in two physical loses that saw Matthew Stafford throw four picks in two games against the Tennessee Titans and the San Francisco 49ers; two of which went the other way for touchdowns. Though both Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel have looked great at times, early turnovers have lead to point differentials that forced McVay to abandon the run.

I predict that won’t be the case against the Packers.

The key to winning against Green Bay is to own the time of possession and take the ball out of the hands of Aaron Rodgers as much as possible. In Week 1, the Packers were out-gained 25:24 to 34:36 in a blowout loss against the New Orleans Saints, and in their most recent defeat against the Minnesota Vikings, lost the time of possession battle by 2:42. If McVay can get his run game going early while Stafford avoids critical mistakes, the Rams should be able to juristic the flow of the match in their favor.

If not from a pure strategic standpoint, then cold weather may also play a factor in how often Stafford is chucking the ball downfield. Though the forecast should be partially sunny with only a 10% chance of precipitation on game day, the day prior is predicted to bring winter snow to the area. The Rams will be far away from sunny LA and may need to make changes to their play-calling to account for the cold weather forecast.

Last week, the Vikings gave the league tape on how to run against the Packers offense. Dalvin cook finished the game with 86 yards on the ground, a touchdown, and 29 yards receiving. Henderson will hope to have a similar day this weekend.

Rams defense continues to struggle against the run

If LA is planning on running the ball due to the weather, then you can bet that Green Bay will do the same. Aaron Jones may be back on the football field after being held out last week due to a knee injury, but if he cannot go AJ Dillon will get the start for the second week in a row. Last week the second year running back was effective against the Vikings, going for 53 yards on the ground on 11 attempts, while also catching all six of his targets for 44 yards.

The Rams defense has also shown this year that it can be susceptible to the run game. In their three losses, LA has allowed the opposition on average 147 yards on the ground—though that number may be skewed thanks to a 216 yard effort from the Arizona Cardinals backfield in Week 4. Before the bye week the 49ers put up 156 yards against them.

I predict that the trend will continue and regardless of who is the starting running back for Green Bay, the Packers backfield will finish with 150+ yards on the ground.

Aaron Donald replicates his performance from 2018’s Rams-Packers matchup

In the divisional round of the playoffs last season, Aaron Donald spent most of the game on the sideline due to a nagging injury from the week prior, and by the end could not contain his emotions. Without the Rams best player on the field Rodgers did not get sacked a single time. With little pressure, the Packers future hall of fame quarterback put up a 108.1 QBR, three total touchdowns, and 296 yards passing. Los Angeles will need to dial up the pressure if they want to win this weekend, but luckily for them they have the personnel to do just that.

With three weeks under Von Miller’s belt in LA, and Leonard Floyd playing some his best football, Donald should have plenty of opportunities to get to the quarterback. In Week 8 of the 2018 season the all-pro defensive end put Rodgers on the ground twice in a close victory that kept LA undefeated that season. I predict that he will do it again on Sunday.

Dont’e Deayon gets his first recorded interception of his career

Dont’e Deayon has been off and on the Rams practice squad since being picked off of the New York Giants roster in 2018. In 2019, he saw just 43 snaps for the entire season and little action in 2020, but this season he has already seen 222 snaps. It would be more if not for an injury in Week 9 against the Titans that has kept him off the field since. On Wednesday, Deayon showed progress in practice, leading McVay to be hopeful that he will play this Sunday against Green Bay.

If he does get the nod to start, the once long-time practice squad member will be an intricate part to LA’s defensive lineup with rookie Robert Rochell underperforming in recent weeks. Though the defensive back may considered undersized at the position at just 5-9 and 159 pounds, he makes up for it with his speed and effort. If not for a penalty called on rookie Ernest Jones in the Week 8 matchup against the Houston Texans, Deayon would have been credited with one of the most impressive interceptions of the year.

With both Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams healthy, if Deayon is able to play the Packers will have to matchup against a full-strength unit. All three players have the talent to snag the ball on Sunday, but I predict it will be Deayon grabbing his first interception of his career against Rodgers.