Packer Preview: Rams Travel to Lambeau

Green Bay Packers NFC North
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His name is Bobert Paulson. His name is Bobert Paulson. His name is Bobert Paulson.

The St. Louis Rams travel to Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers this Sunday in a noon showdown between the perennial up-and-coming Rams, and the undefeated Packers.  The Rams lead the all-time series 46-43, though Green Bay has won five of the last six meetings between these teams.

That includes three wins since quarterback Aaron Rodgers took over for Brett Favre.  Against the Rams, Rodgers has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and one interception, good for a rating over 127.  He also made this throw to wide receiver Randall Cobb.  Never forget:

For Green Bay to continue the recent trend, here are the keys to the game:

Offensive Tackles

After two weeks facing elite defensive lines, it seemed the Packers’ beleaguered tackles may get a break against the San Fransisco 49ers in week 4.  But while left tackle David Bakhtiari showed improvement, replacement right tackle continued his awful play, including being beaten like a drum by a virtual unknown 49er outside linebacker, Aaron Lynch, who had two sacks.  Lynch is just in his second season, so perhaps will blossom into a league force.  More likely, however, is that Barclay is simply overmatched.  He looked small, slow, and frankly, out of his league for the third straight week.

Things do not get any better for the un-dynamic duo this week, as they have to face defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long.  Following a 2011 rookie season with 5 sacks, Quinn has had double-digit sacks three years running, including 19 in 2013.  Long has not been as consistently productive, but is still a nice edge rusher who should give Barclay fits. Meanwhile, the Packers will not be able to commit much help from the guards, as the interior of the line will be busy handling Aaron Donald, who is off to a terrific start in his second season, already racking up 3.5 sacks and 20 tackles from the defensive tackle position.  His running mates include former Lion Nick Fairly, one of the few tackles who has given the Packers’ stout interior some trouble in the past.

Bakhtiari and Barclay simply must be better and keep these guys off of Aaron Rodgers.  If they cannot do it alone, expect to see a repeat of the late game plan in San Fransisco: a lot of fullback John Kuhn on the field, and Richard Rodgers in the backfield.

Run Defense

After a rough start against Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears, the Packers’ run defense has tightened up and put together three impressive performances against Marshawn Lynch (15 carries for 41 yards), Jamaal Charles (11 carries for 49 yards, but also three touchdowns), and Carlos Hyde (8 carries for 20 yards).   Meanwhile in St. Louis, rookie running back Todd Gurley announced his arrival in the NFL last week by running the ball 19 times for 146 yards in a win over the heralded Arizona Cardinals and their strong defense.  Based on that and the “eye test,” Gurley appears to have potential to be a force in the NFL for years.

The easiest path to victory for the Rams is to try and frustrate Rodgers early, and dominate the ball on offense.  The pattern has worked for other teams in the past.  Gurley would certainly feature in any such game plan.  It will be up to the Packers to ensure that the Rams offense is forced off the field, or at the very least forced to rely on the passing game.

Have Fun like a Bunch of Kids Out There

Green Bay has not lost a home game since the 2013 playoffs.  Follow the advice of the great sage Clay Matthews, play your game, and have fun like a bunch of kids running around out there and having fun at the Rams’ expense.  Packers should be able to bring this one home.  Prediction:

Packers 27, Rams 17.