Three things the Packers must do to avoid embarrassment against the Rams

Aaron Rodgers throws ball
Previewing the Packers playoff matchup with the Rams. Photo from Lombardi Ave.
  • The Packers and Rams matchup in the NFC Divisional Round this weekend
  • Green Bay is the top seed and heavy favorites over the Rams
  • Get a preview and keys to the game below

Aaron Rodgers knows the embarrassment of being the top seed in the NFC playoffs and fluffing his lines. It happened to the 15-1 Green Bay Packers following the 2011 NFL season, when the New York Giants left Lambeau Field with a 37-20 victory, en route to a second Super Bowl title in four years.

Rodgers’ chances of avoiding a repeat of that humiliation against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday hinge on three things. Those things include stopping Cam Akers on the ground, along with scheming ways for Davante Adams to avoid Jalen Ramsey.

Get the ball out quickly

Rodgers won’t have time for plays to develop vertically. Not against a Rams’ defensive front in peak form for the playoffs.

L.A. hounded Russell Wilson in Seattle during the WildCard Round. The Rams got a ton of pressure just by rushing four.

What should worry Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is that’s how the Giants beat Rodgers nine years ago. LaFleur should be especially concerned the Rams stayed on Wilson’s case even after Aaron Donald left the field with a rib injury.

The all-world defensive tackle says he’ll be ready to go in Green Bay, but there’s more to the Rams’ pass rush than Donald.

Leonard Floyd has matured into a force off the edge after disappointing the Chicago Bears. He sacked Wilson and hit him three more times last week, while Morgan Fox was also a menace in the pocket.

The Packers have beat the rush with quick-hitters all season. LaFleur loves misdirection, with Rodgers faking a handoff one way before throwing back the other.


Keeping things quick in the short game will take the steam out of the Rams’ pass rush.

Bottle up Akers

Not seeing a stat-line like the one Cam Akers produced in the first half against the Seahawks must be the aim of every member of the Green Bay defense.

Akers can wear a defense out with his sudden burst, power between the tackles, and deceptive speed. His ability to handle a significant workload is key to the play-action schemes head coach Sean McVay and quarterback Jared Goff still rely on.

The Packers need to make Akers a marked man. It’ll help to have Kenny Clark anchor the defensive line. He’s an active nose tackle who can get into the backfield in a hurry.

Rush linebacker Za’Darius Smith has been limited in practice but he’ll be just as important as Clark. If Smith sets a hard edge while Clark gets downhill, the Packers will force Akers sideways and take away the cutback lanes the Rams love to attack with stretch runs behind zone blocking.

Keep Adams away from Ramsey

Ramsey’s skills as one of the premier shutdown corners in the league lend the Rams defense a lot of flexibility. Coordinator Brandon Staley can simply match Ramsey against the opposition’s top receiver and have the rest of the secondary play zone.

Staley’s box-and-one schemes stymied Wilson and the Seahawks. Ramsey’s ability to keep DK Metcalf quiet was essential.

Adams’ numbers in one-on-one matchups are more than respectable, but he hasn’t faced a cover man as good as Ramsey this season. Ramsey is capable of bullying Adams and taking away Rodgers’ safety valve.

LaFleur can help his quarterback by moving Rodgers’ go-to weapon in and out of the slot and into bunch formations. The Packers have to make it hard for Ramsey to trail Adams and play man coverage in open space.

Green Bay’s loaded on both sides of the ball, but the Rams have talent everywhere. McVay’s team has the formula to beat Rodgers.

Akers can limit his snaps while rushing four and generating heat forces errant throws into crowds. If the Packers control these things they’ll avoid embarrassment and push Rodgers closer to a long-overdue second Super Bowl berth.

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