As of Saturday evening, it was set: The Green Bay Packers would play host to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, pitting strength versus strength (Packers’ offense versus Rams’ defense) in a very compelling matchup.
[Yes, I said Saturday. Yes, I think we all correctly ruled the Bears out.]
There’s something very fresh about this Packers/Rams matchup. While the teams did play each other in 2018, the Packers are a very different team, much more so than Los Angeles. They’ve got a new coaching staff, a new offense, plenty of new stars (the Smith brothers, Adrian Amos, an ascending Jaire Alexander, a full-time duty Aaron Jones, a breakout Robert Tonyan and Darnell Savage, just to name a few), and a revitalized MVP quarterback.
You can pretty much toss the tape of the matchup the Packers played in Los Angeles during that season, which saw the Rams go on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Rams enter the game banged up and playing the underdog, but there are still plenty of matchups to look forward to with this game.
- The marquee matchup everyone is talking about, the best wide receiver in the league Davante Adams taking on first team All Pro Jalen Ramsey.
- The best defensive player of his generation, Aaron Donald, fighting against All Pro Corey Linsley and Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins.
- The most valuable player of the league, Aaron Rodgers, taking on a league-best Rams’ passing defense.
- A pair of young, offensive-minded coaches who know each other well in Matt LaFleur and Sean McVay.
- The Packers’ talented young secondary taking on some unheralded but talented receivers in the Rams’ passing attack.
A lot of things to watch for in this one, so even for the fans without any rooting interest, this should be a fun game to watch.
Ultimately, I think the Packers notch the victory, largely due to the massive offensive gap between the two teams that exists especially when the Rams are currently incapable of fielding a healthy quarterback. Chances are Jared Goff gets the start, broken thumb on his throwing hand and all.
At some point, Aaron Rodgers and this Green Bay Packers offense will heat up. It might be right away, it might not be until the second half. When that happens, the Rams offense needs to be able to play keep up. But with how banged up this team is, I just don’t see that happening.
One guy to watch this week
With Jared Goff rather limited due to a thumb injury on his throwing hand, you can expect the Rams to want to lean heavily on the run game once again. This is Damon “Snacks” Harrison’s time to shine.
A pickup just before week 17, Harrison was brought in precisely for these environments: playoff games at the frozen tundra where you need to be able to stop the opposing team’s run game. Snacks saw limited action in Week 17 in Chicago, but from what we saw, he appeared to still have a good push up front.
If he can be an effective rotational player to help stop the run and to take snaps away from essentially worthless bodies like Tyler Lancaster and Dean Lowry, then it can be a big deal for this team in this final run here in the postseason.
Other Divisional Round Predictions
In the other divisional round action this weekend…
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC 5) at New Orleans Saints (NFC 2)
Neither of these teams looked particularly impressive over the weekend, but the Saints looked especially average. They let a pitiful Bears team hang around in their home stadium for most of the game, even when they weren’t able to move the ball at all. Drew Brees looks ancient and decrepit, and the Saints’ offense is one more Taysom Hill designed run from postseason disaster. While the Bucs have been inconsistent, they at least have a significantly higher ceiling than this Saints team. Third time’s a charm–the Bucs will win and travel to Lambeau for the NFC Championship. Buccaneers 27, Saints 23
Cleveland Browns (AFC 6) at Kansas City Chiefs (AFC 1)
By the time Saturday night’s game kicks off it will have been three weeks since we’ve seen some of the Chiefs’ key players. Andy Reid is a master of getting his team up after the bye week, but that’s a whole lot of time off before an important game against a surging underdog playing with house money. I think the Browns give the Chiefs all they can handle, but come up just a bit short in the end, when the Chiefs’ talent advantage makes itself plain. Chiefs 30, Browns 27
Baltimore Ravens (AFC 5) at Buffalo Bills (AFC 2)
Another game that could come right down to the wire. I have the Bills meeting the Packers in the Super Bowl so I’m not about to pick against them now, but if the Ravens are able to control the clock, that could be their recipe to victory. Keep that high-octane Bills offense off the field and let your league-best running offense do its thing. This means the Ravens’ defense is going to have to hold up early. Ultimately, I think the Bills do just enough to come away with the win and setup a great showdown with the Chiefs in the AFC. Bills 30, Ravens 23
Two Minutes’ Hate: Los Angeles Rams
In January 2016, evil billionaire and owner of the Los Angeles Rams Stan Kroenke finally got his wish: he would finally get to leave behind his despised Midwesterners and ship his team back to its former home of Los Angeles, a city that had see three professional football teams leave for greener pastures since the 1960s and, as a city of transplants with built-in loyalties to other teams all over the country, generally showed little interest in bringing one back.
But money talks, and Kroenke got to yoink the Rams away from St. Louis and build a massive, palatial monument to his ego.
If there is any silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that the grand opening of this monolith to Kroenke’s greed was spoiled by not being allowed to have any fans in it.
Of course, Kroenke may very well have preferred it that way, as he did not have to share the same air with any of us peasants.
The team itself? They’re actually pretty good, and generally hard to dislike. But the fans just don’t give a shit.
When the team is actually allowed to have fans attend games, you can expect it to be an embarrassment for the home team. See: the Packers’ visit to the Colosseum in 2018, in which the Rams had to go to a silent count on offense to work around the Packers’ contingent of fans that overwhelmed the stadium.
The reality is that when the Packers demolish the battered remains of what was once the Los Angeles Rams football team this weekend, there’ll be like 30 folks in the greater LA area who even notice their team has been eliminated.
In a sense, Jared Goff is a perfect avatar for this team. He’s pretty good sometimes, unexplainably bad at random times, never really talked about and never really hyped up. He also comes across as a really dumb blonde which, again, is perfect for Los Angeles.
The Green Bay Packers win 38-17 and move on to face a team I can actually care enough about to hate.