Legendary senior writer & Packers lead blogger jclombardi presents Packers "key matchup & game plan" to victory against the Rams.
Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch US Presswire.
1. OLB Matthews and OLB Walden vs Rams LT Hunter/Barksdale & RT Richardson--Rams have a struggling offensive line with LT Hunter having a back injury and not practicing for the week. OLB Matthews may be doubled leaving OLB Walden and OLB Moses left to beat their one-on-one battles to get pressure on Rams QB Bradford. Seriously, this is a contest?
2. LT Newhouse & RT Bulaga vs. DEs Quinn & Long--Quinn and Long have combined for 10 sacks in the past six games. LT Marshall Newhouse is having a strong pass blocker season. Newhouse and struggling RT Bulaga must hold their own against these two edge rushers.
3. WRs James Jones, Nelson & Cobb vs CBs Finnegan and rookie CB Jenkins--Packers' receivers go against veteran Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan (3 interceptions) and rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins. WR Jones, WR Jordy Nelson and WR Randall Cobb must make the big plays without injured WR Greg Jennings(groin). Veteran Jones should have a field day against this injured (back) rookie CB Jenkins. If Jones gets double coverage with over-the-top help from safeties, WR Cobb or WR Nelson must get off the line and open for Rodgers. Also, QB Rodgers can also go to the tight ends in the intermediate zones in no-huddle spread offense.
4. Packers defense vs Rams RBs Jackson & Richardson--With NT Raji out again, rookie DE Worthy gets the call to play with NT Pickett and DE Wilson. The trio, along with linebackers, did a fine job against Texans RB Foster. This week, they face an aging Rams RB Jackson and adequate rookie RB Richardson who will challenge them.
5. Packers safeties vs. Rams rookie wide receiver Givens--Givens is Bradford's long ball threat and the safeties must establish over-the-top coverage to stop him.
1. Defensive pressure--blitzes to destroy Rams' offensive rhythm; also, the Packers must shift OLBs, especially Clay Matthews, to different sides of the defense. DC Capers can use the "Psycho" package with Jerel Worthy, Walden, Matthews, and Moses lining up to pass rush. They must have a big game against a weak Rams offensive line.
The Packers have three new starters to replace injured players. ILB D.J. Smith is on IR. His replacement is versatile veteran Brad Jones. Rookie OLB Nick Perry (knee) is out replaced by versatile pass rusher veteran OLB Erik Walden. 3rd year cornerback Sam Shields (shin) is out replaced by solid rookie Casey Hayward.
2. Running game--the Packers must stablish the running game against the Rams to limit their edge pass rushers. RB Green replaced injured veteran Cedric Benson. He can provide the necessary running yardage to complement the passing game. RB Green earned McCarthy's respect and praise against the Texans. He gets a second straight start facing the Rams.
3. High-octance passing game & offensive tempo--QB Rodgers can establish offensive tempo with elite receivers and set up big plays against rookie cornerback Jenkins. With the Rams' cornerbacks trying to cover WRs Nelson and Jones, QB Rodgers can use quick throws to WR Cobb or to the tight ends to set up the big plays. QB Rodgers and WR Cobb have connected 29 times for 346 yards and 1 touchdown. Against the Texans, WR Cobb had 7 catches for 102 yards,
4. Limit Rams running game-the Packers must control the line of scrimmage, fill the gaps like they did against the Texans, and limit Rams RBs Jackson/Richardson.
5. Convert third downs/big plays--Packers can find the holes in the middle intermediate zone for the necessary big plays using the "Five O" formation.
6. Special teams edge--Packers must win the special teams battle, especially in kicking and punting areas to control field position.
7. Win turnovers battle--an old story, but the Packers must get big turnovers, prevent fumbles, and stop penalties.
Given the struggles by the injury-depleted Rams offense to score points with St. Louis averaging just 18.3 points per outing, [Packers]'s banged-up defense can be exploited via the pass if Sam Bradford has the time to set his feet and find the open receiver. As such, defensive coordinator Dom Capers should be compelled to pump a steady stream of heat into the dome with a liberal use of pressure packages. Head coach Mike McCarthy had the previously hit-and-miss offense humming against the Texans by going heavy with the no-huddle [spread offense]. McCarthy likely will stick with what's working and rely on the up-tempo scheme to counter the aggressive, speed-rushing tendencies of the Rams. The Packers will be hard-pressed to run the football successfully against a defense that has allowed a total of only 64 rushing yards in the last two games. That would leave it up to Rodgers to take what St. Louis' zone coverage will give him and move the football down the field in methodical fashion [if necessary].
PREDICTION: NFL.com picks this come to be close, but we do not think so [can they fake it?]. THE PACKERS SHOULD WIN GOING HOME 4-3. The Packer return home to face two teams, Jacksonville and Arizona, and then have a week 10 bye. The Packers must enter their bye 6-3 to rest and enter the next phase with a healthy group to face their NFC North competition.