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GAME of the WEEK

On their way to a record setting undefeated championship season last year, the Rams shutout the Green Bay Packers, 16-0, in California to lay claim the NFC title. The blanking marked the only time a Jeff Beyel coached team had ever been shutout and denied Green Bay from playing in their third Super Bowl. This time, though, the two clubs will play at fabled Lambeau Field in colder weather and, although no team is going undefeated this year, the winner of this one will position themselves nicely for a playoff run.

The Rams' offense might be hitting its stride at just the right time after playing a number of close games earlier in the season. QB Tom Brady threw a season high 5 TD passes while also posting his best QBR (142.8) of the year in the rout of the Giants. RB David Johnson also had his best game of the year eclipsing the century mark for the first time this season. And, deep ball supreme threat Davonte Adams hauled in 4 TD passes while compiling 129 yards receiving to boost his season total to 15! Johnson's fellow back, Alvin Kamara, was not needed much last week but he has joined up with Johnson for 85 total catches for 808 yards while the two have rushed for a combined 1465 yards rushing and 10 TDs! Add in WR Damaryius Thomas and it is easy to see how formidable LA can be. Perhaps, though, a developing story could play a role here this game. Stud TE Rob Gronkowski is out and so too will his 30 catch 15.6 YPC presence be gone. However, super deep threat Dante Pettis (24.6 YPR and 4 TDs) can step in to stretch the Packer secondary.

Defensively, Los Angeles can pressure with their defensive line alone but they love to blitz coming in averaging over 32% of the time in blitz mode. The unit has 16 sacks and 8 picks while holding opposing QBs to a mere 53.5% completion rate thanks to the presence of their excellent secondary. If they can limit the Packer running game (more on this below) and force Green Bay QB Dak Prescott to the air then the secondary should be able to do its thing.

The Packers lead the league in scoring despite having an unsung group of receivers that seem to get the job done in a workmanlike fashion. WRs Dede Westbrook, Seth Roberts, Mohamad Sanu, and Kelvin Benjamin care nobody. Those 4 though, along with TE Jared Cook are all averaging 13.5 YPC or better and have accounted for 24 TD receptions. However, with RB Joe Mixon out along with TE OJ Howard, Green Bay is very short in the ground game and that could mean QB Dak Prescott might have to find a way to win the game with his arm and legs against one of the best defensive units in football.

The likely offensive problems the Packers will face must be mitigated some by the defense. DTs Dashaun Hand and Kenny Clark are now both listed as probable for the game. If one or both can go, then the defensive front schemes of the Packers can be greatly enhanced. If, though, both remain out then the Green Bay front 7 gets extremely vulnerable against an attack that is probably too powerful to slow down. The Packers are one of the best teams in football in TO ration entering the game with 16 interceptions, 22 takeaways, and 30 sacks while only turning over just 7 times all year. Oddly, LA comes in with a -6 TO ratio.

Final Analysis: The status of the Packer interior defensive line is, obviously a factor here as well as the absence of Gronkwoski from the Ram arsenal and RB Mixon from the Packer attack. Green Bay is likely going to struggle to run the ball and that plays right into the hands of the Rams and their secondary while the Rams have enough weapons to offset the loss of Gronk. Brady always seems to play big in big games and there is no reason to doubt him in this one. Los Angeles 28-24.


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